creatures were hunted to near extinction by the 1920s. But in recent decades, conservationists have brought wolves back to the Rockies, igniting a battle over the very soul of the West.
With novelistic detail, Nate Blakeslee tells the gripping story of one of these wolves, a charismatic alpha female named O-Six for the year of her birth. Uncommonly powerful, with gray fur and faint black ovals around each eye, O-Six is a kind and merciful leader, a fiercely intelligent fighter, and a doting mother. She is beloved by wolf watchers, particularly Yellowstone park ranger Rick McIntyre, and becomes something of a social media star, with followers around the world.But as she raises her pups and protects her pack, O-Six is challenged on all fronts: by hunters, who compete with wolves for the elk they both prize; by cattle ranchers who are losing livestock and have the ear of politicians; and by other Yellowstone wolves who are vying for control of the park's stunningly beautiful Lamar Valley.
These forces collide in American Wolf, a riveting multi-generational saga of hardship and triumph that tells a larger story about the clash of values in the West--between those fighting for a vanishing way of life and those committed to restoring one of the country's most iconic landscapes.
It's impossible for me to review this book without also talking about my relationships to the wolves. Apologies in advance, because this will likely get lengthy. The wolves of Yellowstone have long been part of my life.
I've been going to Yellowstone since I was 6 months old. Every year or so we'd head across the country and spend weeks hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and animal watching. I remember the first time we saw a grizzly bear, the time we watched a bison charge down the road and barely miss a fisherman, I can look at a picture of a location in Yellowstone and tell you a memory about that place. I spent so much time in Hayden Valley that my parents took to calling it "Kate's Valley" and once I had a daughter we started taking her across as well. I also remember the first time I ever saw a wolf. It was 1996, I was 15 and we were driving through Lamar Valley checking out all our favorite wildlife watching spots. We went fishing down in Slough Creek and it was about dusk. Driving down the road I was looking out the window hoping to catch a glimpse of something, when suddenly there he/she was. High on the rocks, looking down as we drove past. Be the time we had stopped, the wolf had retreated back into the woods and I had been changed forever. I've followed the wolves for the past 20 years, checking in online during the year and planning out our trips to make sure that we were hitting up the most likely spots to see the wolves. We've seen pups playing near Slough Creek, a wolf fend off a bear over a carcass near Mary Mountain, a whole pack come down the hill near Little America and last summer we had probably our most amazing wolf experience. We pulled into a picnic area in Hayden Valley to discuss where we should head next and notices a few cars pulled towards the back, with their passengers out. We followed suit and immediately realized we were in for something amazing. A lone female white wolf was off the back of the picnic area, howling away. For about 15-20 minutes we watched this wolf as she tried to decide where to go. After she finally took off we headed back to the road and eventually saw her join up with two male's across the river. Later that night we went to the wolf presentation at Bridge Bay Campgrounds and learned that we had witnessed the white wolf defecting from her pack and joining up with the two males to start a new pack. In 34 years of visiting the park, that was a first for me.
This book then, was a bit like coming home. A way to visit a place I know like the back of my hand. The book makes reference to a lot of places in the park by name, places that I can picture right away, although I'm not sure a reader who doesn't frequent the park would be able to. Still Blakeslee paints a perfect picture of what the park and the surrounding area is like in regards to wolves. It was particularly interesting to me to get a snapshot of not only the people who advocate for wolves, but also those who are adamantly opposed to their reintroduction. It has been controversial and contentious for years, and that is probably an understatement. Blakeslee manages to present both sides of the debate very well, clearly showing why the wolves were reintroduced and the positive impact they've had, as well as highlighting the reasons that many were opposed. Many times online (and in person) you come across someone who is on one side or the other and because people are so passionate about it, it's hard to have a discussion. You are simply painted as pro-wolf or anti-wolf and the broad strokes of that brush cover up a really complicated issue. As is often the case, neither side is 100% right, it's not that simple and Blakeslee does a masterful job weaving together all the perspectives to create a really well rounded look at the Yellowstone wolves over the past 20+ years.
I loved this book. It made me want to quit my job, pack up and drive until I hit the valley (roughly 3 days of driving), and spend all my time watching animals and talking to other visitors. I found myself wondering if I was in any of the places that were highlighted during the events that were being discussed. Have I met Rick or Laurie? Maybe sat on the hill watching the pups play in the valley with them without even knowing how significant they were to the story of the wolves? Or maybe Rick gave one of the presentations I've attended over the years? Probably. My goal is to someday work in the park as an educator. I've just completed my Cultural Heritage Preservation Degree and there's nothing I want more then to share what I'm passionate about (namely Yellowstone National Park and it's wildlife) with others. Reading this book gave me a glimpse of the people who do just that every day and the wolves that are familiar to me and a bit like family to them.
I can't wait until my next trip out west, to sit in the valley and visit with the wolves.
The White Wolf and her potential new pack mates
American Wolf Book Trailer
This was such a powerful book. Focusing on Juliet, a 19 year Latina from the Bronx, the story follows her as she tried to figure out who she is and what she wants out of life. I personally loved that Juliet is both completely sure of who she is, and also totally confused by what that means for her. The book opens with her cold emailing the author (Harlowe) of her favorite book and remarkably getting a response and an offer to be Harlowe's summer intern. Taking a giant leap of faith Juliet come's out to her family and then promptly flies across the country to take the opportunity of a lifetime.
Harlowe's world in Portland, OR is a far cry from Juliet's in NY and author Gabby Rivera does a phenomenal job weaving the stories of all the people Juliet meets together to create a tapestry of humanity that allows the reader to look at the world we live in.
My only negative for this book is that the world Juliet is thrust into is full of new worlds and acronymns (like poly for instance). Initially Juliet doesn't want to admit that she doesn't know what all these things mean, afraid to look stupid in front of someone she looks up to. However, Juliet's lack of understanding can also represent the readers lack of understanding. While I was able to follow the vast majority of what was being referred to, there were still moments that I had to step away from the story to look something up, which killed the momentum of the story.
That aside, this book is such a worthy read and provides a look at what it's like to trust yourself and take a chance on a life you might never have experienced otherwise. That's a message that goes beyond the protagonist and her story and everyone can relate to.
With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.
By way of a disclaimer I should probably start this by saying that I was and continue to be a massive Carrie Fisher fan. I'm also a complete Star Wars nerd. My room as a kid was wall papered with posters and pictures and I own no less then 4 complete collections of the movies. My room as an adult still includes Star Wars art, collectibles and one very old Han Solo, life size cut out. My library at work has Star Wars posters, a Kylo Ren figurine and multiple pins and patches hanging off of various bulletin boards. In other words, I am 100% predisposed to adoring this book.
Giving any sort of real review here is almost a lost cause. Every time I try I end up just recounting the stories Fisher tells about what it was like to grow up in her family, to be thrust into the spot light and to take on the iconic role of Princess Leia. Me recounting these stories is a poor imitation of how Fisher writes, so why even try. I'll simply tell you to go buy this book. If you love Fisher, buy it. If you love Star Wars, buy it. If you love Hollywood Gossip and insider stories of celebrities acting like fool, buy it. If you have a bit of a crush on Han Solo or Harrison Ford, definitely buy it. This book was an absolute delight to read and if I'm being honest, I was a little sad when it ended. It felt like visiting an old friend and getting all the best gossip over tea (or mimosas, your choice) and I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that I wish there was more time with Fisher to visit and laugh about the strange and magical world she lived in.
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