What If Your Mom Wore a Bone in Her Nose?

Mixed marriages can have wildly unexpected consequences.

Posted Nov 26, 2015

Used with permission of Dey Street Books.
Source: Used with permission of Dey Street Books.

If you're intrigued by human nature, I recommend David Good's memoir, The Way Around: Finding My Mother and Myself Among the Yanomami. David is a young man with the most unusual of backgrounds: his father, an anthropologist spending time in the Amazonian Rainforest, married a native woman and had children with her.

One of those children was David. Mrs. Good moved to New Jersey with her husband and kids, but a few years later, when David was six, she chose to return to her jungle roots.

Twenty years later, after David struggled with much personal trauma, including depression and alcoholism, he went to Venezuela to find his mother and, perhaps, the part of himself he'd been missing.

The writing style (the book was written "With Daniel Paisner") is a little "Oh, man, I nearly fell on my face"-ish, but the conversational tone does lend realism.

With permission of Dey Street Books.
Source: With permission of Dey Street Books.

David's father's story is woven into David's own, providing much-needed background. The elder Good wrote his own book about his experiences, and the media made a huge fuss over him and his family. That led to many interviews, TV shows, and a National Geographic documentary. The publicity wasn't welcome by young David, who looked different from his schoolmates (skin color and more). Like all kids, he wanted simply to fit in. But how do you fit in with a mother like that? Not that Yarima didn't try to be a regular housewife. That is, until on a visit back to her old home, she decided to stay there.

WHAT'S HOME? WHOSE HOME?

David's two journeys to the Amazon to reconnect with his mother and his roots are described with much compassion for everyone involved. Again, David tries to fit in with mixed results and a good deal of self-deprecating humor (the hard work, the bugs, the two wives he's been given!). Personally, it's hard to get my brain around trying to communicate with people that have number words for only one, two, and many, and that have barely any concept of a future.

Used with permission of Dey Street Books.
Source: Used with permission of Dey Street Books.

Especially helpful are the many color photos of the author, his mother and other relatives, and the jungle environment in which they live much like their distant ancestors.

One of the book's surprises is that David Good, seeking a meaningful path for himself, is now working to improve the situation of indigenous peoples in South and Central America by means of The Good Project. This reader hopes David's project isn't just a phase for someone who is having a hard time finding where he fits in the world. Rather, I hope his current passion allows him to use his unique experiences to make a difference for indigenous peoples.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Susan K. Perry, author of Kylie’s Heel