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Delia Akeley and the Monkey: A Human-Animal Story of Captivity, Patriarchy and Nature
LONGLISTED IN THE WAVERLEY NIB AWARD 2022
"In Delia Akeley and the Monkey, Iain McCalman uses the life of the flawed but fascinating woman at its centre as the starting point for a meditation on colonial violence, patriarchy and animals. The results are remarkable: fascinating, troubling, strange and sad in equal measure."
—James Bradley, Author of Ghost Species and Clade
"Iain McCalman recovers a forgotten story of the primal struggles between man, woman, nature and culture. Combining the breadth of Moby Dick and Heart of Darkness with the passions of Born Free and Out of Africa, Delia Akeley and the Monkey is an inspiring and unsettling story from the heart of Africa and the heart of one extraordinary woman."
—Danielle Clode, Author of In Search of the Woman who Sailed the World (2020)
About the Book:
On an East-African hunting expedition in 1909, Delia Akeley, a forty-year-old American woman, casually captured a baby female monkey, never dreaming this act would overturn both their lives. Delia’s life was isolated and often lonely in an overpoweringly masculine world. She decided to name the monkey JT Jr and study her interactions with humans; a long-frustrated desire to adopt a child led her to also lose her heart to this lovable animal.
This relationship with a feisty, intelligent Vervet unlocked Delia’s latent talents of research and observation, anticipating both Jane Goodall’s chimpanzee writings and Margaret Mead’s Samoan ethnographies. It illuminates much about human-animal relations and the tyranny of gender inequality by reinstating an obscured story of a dedicated amateur primatologist.
Iain McCalman uses records, official and informal, to build a story of passionate love and hate among women, men, animals and museums that predates our times but speaks to our present.
About the Author:
Iain McCalman is a historian with a strong sense of how narrative transforms us. His most recent books are Darwin’s Armada (2009) and The Reef— A Passionate History (2013), both highly acclaimed and prizewinning. Iain has recently retired from academic life. He was Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Sydney Environment Centre.