Finding My Purpose in an Untamed World
by Rae Wynn-Grant
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Pub Date 02 Apr 2024 | Archive Date Not set
Zando, Get Lifted Books
In this vulnerable and urgent memoir, Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant explores the ever-shifting relationship between humans, animals, and the earth through her personal journey to becoming a wildlife ecologist.
Growing up in the diverse and bustling California Bay Area, renowned wildlife ecologist Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant always felt worlds away from the white male adventurers she watched explore the wilderness on TV. She dreamed of a future where she could spend sleepless nights under the crowded canopies of the Amazon and the starry skies of the savanna. But as Rae set off on her own journey in the wild, finding her way in a profession where there were few scientists who looked like her, she saw nature’s delicate balance in a new light. In her quest to study the ever-shifting relationship between humans, animals, and place, Rae has realized the vital roles we each play not just as stewards for our land and water, but also for our communities, each other, and ourselves.
Wild Life follows Rae from her urban childhood in California and Virginia, to her adventures and explorations in some of the world’s most rugged and remote locales. Hers is a story about a career in the wild spanning nearly two decades, carving a niche for herself as one of very few Black female scientists, and the challenges she has had to overcome, expectations she has had to leave behind, and the many lessons she has learned along the way. Through her personal story of resilience and adaptation, Rae argues for a more connected, more socially and ecologically conscious world. An incredible journey spanning the Great Plains of North America to the rainforests of Madagascar, Wild Life sheds light on our pivotal relationship and responsibility to the natural world and the relatives—both human and otherwise—that we share it with.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 9 members
I may have been the last person to not know who Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant is so I can came to the book without any preconceived notions. At first, I was surprised—and a bit critical—of a memoir that begins in the writer's childhood but as I read forward, I understood that the full transformation of Wynn-Grant from young girl to mature, realized woman began in her childhood. Wynn-Grant artfully weaves the racist affronts of many with her personal experience. She shares her personal growth and development with honesty and integrity, her descriptions are neither overly intimate nor does she gloss over details. Her writing is accessible and compelling.
Wynn-Grant's life story to date is an inspiration for young people facing their own self-doubt and critics telling them what they can or cannot do and be. Her tenacity and clear vision led her to achieve an improbable childhood goal and in reading her journey, I found myself cheering her at every opportunity and obstacle. After reading her memoir, Dr. Wynn-Grant has another fan.
Wild Life: Finding My Purpose in an Untamed World.. The prologue begins with a hair-raising cry. A bear sighting!
As a child growing up in the Bay Area in California, Rae Wynn-Grant was seldom allowed to watch television. However, her father loved his Golden State Warriors and the Chicago Bulls. She and her brother were only allowed to watch educational programs, and Rae fell in love with nature shows and vowed that one day she would be a host of a show who told people all about animals. In In her memoir, her memoir, Wild Life . Rae Wynn-Grant recounts the ups and downs of her quest to reach that goal and to find her place in the world.
When she was in middle school, the family moved to Norfolk, Virginia, which was a culture shock to the children. In California, they’d been accepted; in Norfolk, they had their first experiences with racial inequities. This affected Rae’s schoolwork, and much to her chagrin, Rae did poorly at math and science courses. How would she ever pursue a career in biology? She turned to music instead. However, because she knew this would never be her life’s work, she determinedly graduated from Emory University with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, then went on to Yale to earn a Masters. She didn’t stop there, earning a Ph.D. from Columbia University. She describes the rugged, nitty-gritty details of her assorted field studies. She traveled to destinations including Kenya, Tanzania, Nevada, and Minnesota. She tracked and documented activity of bears, and lemurs; she observed giraffes and all sorts of wildlife in East and West Africa.
None of this came without personal cost. With incredible honesty, Wynn-Grant tells of the impact some people had on her life– her parents, her husband, close mentors, friends, and lovers. She does not hold back about past mistakes and how she’s grown. Her extensive travel, which she loved, took its toll on relationships, and on her. She lays it out there, and she’s a whole, fully alive human being. She’s rightfully proud of what she’s accomplished as a female, Black ecologist.
There were several important takeaways and moments that touched me:
1) An ecologist manages relationships between humans and animals. For example, many people see bears as a nuisance. However, bears help manage the environment in ways we do not imagine. They spread seeds around, help with deer management, and help keep the forest fertile by breaking down logs to help them decompose.
2) Humans are part of the environment. When in Tanzania, a group of team members find a dead animal slain by poachers. She comes to realize that despite the horror of this death, there is benefit to the people of the village. The meat of this beautiful animal cannot be wasted; it will feed many people. She concludes that that the needs of the human community should be regarded before starting a conservation project.
3) Her therapy and experience with animal observation led her to conclude that when it comes to fight or flight, one is not better than the other.
Lastly, there was an event that touched me perhaps more than any other. It helps that it occurred in my home state of Minnesota. No spoiler. I’ll simply say this: It was AWE-some!
If you love animals, if you love science, if you love humanity, if you love equality, if you love adventure, you will love Wild Life: Finding My Purpose in an Untamed World Thank you, Dr. Rae, Wynn-Grant for sharing your story.
I received a digital copy in exchange for my honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks also to NetGalley and to Get Lifted Books.
This book was a compelling read in that Dr. Wynn-Grant has strong storytelling skills. It's an honest look at her struggles and her triumphs personally and professionally. I think it is helpful to have narratives like this, particularly when it comes to discussions of the intersections of race, social justice, education and employment, and motherhood. That's a lot to hold, and Dr. Wynn-Grant speaks about what that all looks like in her life. She also gets into some of the specifics of her career path. I found that very interesting and I think she probably could write a whole book about career paths in her field could be improved.
Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC copy of this book.
Wel written memoir by a renowned conservationist and ecologist. I loved the vibe throughout. Would recommend it. Thanks so much for the arc!
A little more than a year ago my kids and I saw a presentation given by Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant while on an educational trip to Disney World. We’ve listened to her podcasts, watched her Crash Course Zoology videos, and are currently watching her host Wild Kingdom. My daughter will have to wait until she’s a bit older to read this book, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Some of the stories were familiar, though in more detail, to her stories in her podcast. As I was reading the book I could imagine she was actually speaking the words, so I do hope she plans to narrate her audiobook. I do also hope that someday she will write children’s books about the animals that she has encountered in the wild. Thank you, Dr, Rae Wynn-Grant for putting your struggles and your triumphs out there for the world to read, you’re an inspiration to others.
Thank you NetGalley and Zando for the opportunity to read this book prior to publication.
*I received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for the free book.*
"Wild Life" is a great memoir about finding one's place in life and pursuing one's passions. It's also a book about a Black woman experiencing racism in the States but also struggling with Black people in various African countries that Wynn-Grant travelled to for her research. It's also about career versus relationship, motherhood, family.
I frankly might've enjoyed more science in this one but I'm weird...
When the author was growing up she always wanted her career to be as a host of a wild animal show.
She studied hard and went to the highest level she could to make her dream come true.
She became a large carnivore ecologist and science communicator. She work for a long time with bears in Montana, where she studied the human impact on the bears.
Lions in Africa, and also many other projects that sent her to different parts of the world.
She worked hard and and finally reached her goal .
This book is also how she managed marriage, children, and still be able to have the ability to work at what she loves. Also this was about her, and her feelings about racism, as she grew up in the United States, where she didn't see many Black people in her field of work, and other areas.
I loved her field stories, they were fun, she is a good story teller and made me want to keep reading about her adventures.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Zando Projects for a copy of this book