Greenfield offers a chance to see through The Lion's Eye
Published 1:02 am, Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Local author Joanna Greenfield will be at the Westport Barnes and Noble on Thursday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. to talk and sign copies of her new book, The Lion's Eye: Seeing in the Wild.
Greenfield is a King's Highway Elementary School graduate, as well as Bedford Junior High and Staples High School through her junior year. She received her BA in anthropology from Wesleyan University before attending Columbia University for her MFA in nonfiction writing.
Between Greenfield's junior and senior year at Wesleyan, she traveled to Kenya to study wildlife and biology, fulfilling a lifelong dream to experience African animals in their natural environments.
"I pestered all the wildlife agencies in Kenya for a volunteer position on a research site until a scientist offered me a place studying chimpanzees in the Impenetrable Forest of Uganda in the last of the Mountains of the Moon," Greenfield told the Citizen.
She jumped at the idea and spent six months in the country, living in a tent with Bakiga tribesmen and a Mutwa pygmy tracker.
Greenfield's book is a memoir about her time in Uganda, living with and learning about chimpanzees. Vivid descriptions about African animals and her encounters in their native habitats bring The Lion's Eye alive for readers. The author also goes into great detail about her struggles with fire ants, constant rain, famine, a threatened attack by escaped soldiers, threats from poachers and a life-threatening parasite.
At the end of her time in Uganda, Greenfield had to leave due to the dangers of the country, despite not knowing if she'd ever be able to return.
Greenfield noted, "I've never known why Africa has fascinated me for so long. My mother said I started asking to go there when I was three. I think I must have seen pictures of the savanna and known that that was my real home."
Beginning to write as a child, Greenfield said, "I wrote, over the years, a very long and adventurous novel that my brother loved. But I never thought of it as anything more than mental doodling. Even The Lion's Eye, which obsessed me for 20 years day and night, I never thought of as a book until it was published."
The author revealed that, after an attack by a hyena in Israel, which she writes about in The Lion's Eye, she began physical therapy along with writing classes "to deal with the masses of work I'd already poured out. But the more classes I took, the more I wrote."
Five thousand pages of writing later, "I finally went to school full time because I couldn't work at a job with all the writing I was doing, though I still didn't think of myself as a writer," Greenfield said. "One of the teachers offered to look at the manuscript to help me find a publisher, and she ended up publishing the hyena attack chapter in the New Yorker magazine. I had a book offer that week."
The premise of The Lion's Eye, according to Greenfield, "is about learning how to see through the eyes of animals in the wild, and about finding out through them what humans have lost by leaving our animal roots too far behind."
On Thursday, Greenfield will be reading to Barnes and Noble patrons from the portion of her book on tracking and finally finding chimpanzees in Uganda after a lengthy hunt. "If the technology works out, I'll try to do a brief slide show while I'm reading, of some of the rarer animals I saw in the rain forest," she said, "and then hopefully people will have lots of questions to ask."
For an added treat, the author is going to bring cupcakes with lion's eyes on them for those who attend her reading and signing on Thursday, Nov. 19, 7 p.m. at the Barnes and Noble at 1076 Post Road East in Westport.
Greenfield is currently working on a novel about her American travels in search of the healthiest place to live. Aside from writing, the author also teaches seminars on green living.
For more information on Greenfield and The Lion's Eye, visit www.hachettebookgroup.com/books_9780316328487.htm.