Media &

Book Excerpts

 "Voices from the Ape House" is available now from: Amazon, Barnes & Noble and OSU/Trillium Press. 

Beth & Jumoke.jpg

Interviews & Media Coverage 

for Voices from the Ape House

Chapter 21 - Humans & Gorillas

 

"We humans have a complicated history regarding gorillas, including our fascination with them and our selfish need to want them close. Gorillas mirror us in uncountable ways: our interactions with family members, our investment of time in raising children, supplying guidance and comfort as they grow up and away from us. We mirror one another in our joy and laughter when playing, in our friendships and feuds, in our need for privacy and dignity. They delight us in their similarities while at the same time make us somewhat uncomfortable. We see our humanity in them, but when you are in essence the warden that commonality gives one pause."

 

Chapter 1 - Ape House

"Here, right in front of me, is the animal I observed as a child when we made our annual visit to the zoo in summer. I was disturbed even then by his intentional studied stare, blankly looking into the distance past the visitors as if he could somehow will himself out of these small confining enclosures, as if he could spirit himself away from the deafening voices of the hundreds who came daily to rudely stare and then shuffle on to the next exhibit. I remember sitting quietly on the cement bench along the back wall of the public aisle observing him. I always wanted to stay longer in the Ape House, especially when the crowds left, because it seemed to me, if only for a moment, that his body relaxed, his demeanor became less defensive, and his shield came down. I felt, even as a youngster, a sense of unease at the injustice of this animal’s life. 

 

But now, no more than a few inches from him and only a barred door separating us, I am not prepared for how massive he is, how angry his eyes are, and just how beautiful he is all at once. Then I feel something else—as if I have come home." 

Chapter 11 - Construction

"Gorillas have a wide array of vocalizations to communicate with one another. In the past Mac might produce the usual greeting vocalization to us but even that was rare. I never heard feeding vocalizations or laughter from him. He was a remarkably silent gorilla.

Dianna had given Mac a bale of hay. A bale contains about sixteen flakes of compressed hay. Mac had shaken out the flakes and was al- ready engrossed in making a nest, completely and utterly oblivious to us. As I drew closer, I heard soft uninterrupted rumbling vocalizations, as if he were having a conversation with himself as he created his nest—a nest of such circular conformity and perfection, with high walls and a cozy deep center, that one would have thought an engineer had designed it. Every few minutes he stepped into the nest to get a feel for it, as if to ascertain the shape and height, and then he’d step back out and make adjustments, adding to, shaking out, and fluffing up his hay, fussing with it continuously—all the while talking to himself. Mac had not had bedding material for nest building since being taken from the forests of Africa thirty years prior as an infant, where he would have shared a nest with his mother.

Mac was transformed, as if in a trance, wholly absorbed in the work at hand, seemingly transported back to his African home. He was doing what all gorillas will do when given leaves, branches, or, in this case, hay. He was making a proper sleeping nest. By the time it was finished, it was truly a masterpiece, perfect in every way. We quietly exited the building, leaving Mac to his memories, both of us touched and once again beguiled by the gorilla’s resilient nature."