Daily Archives: October 25, 2019

*** Wildhood by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers


Wildhood: The Epic Journey from Adolescence to Adulthood in Humans and Other Animals¬†is a delightful exploration of adolescent animals of all kinds, including penguins, wolves, hyenas, whales, birds, and humans. The authors, a biology professor and a science journalist, show how teenagers of all species learn to feed themselves, navigate hierarchies, stay safe, and find a mate. (Curiously, they discuss feeding themselves last!) They are able to knit together stories of completely different animals into a satisfying whole and convincingly present key elements of the life of ¬†teenagers and young adults: risk taking (even in rodents, who are eaten by owls mostly as adolescents), quick learning from others’ bad consequences of risky behavior (rather than their parents, seen as too old, and too staid), anxiety (shelter dogs who are attacked as adolescent are likely never to shed their fear-based aggressive tendencies), privilege (yes, even with scrub jays, who inherit their territories from their parents), and, my favorite, the ability to sometimes overcome privilege deficits through deft social navigation (by a young hyena, in the book).

They also introduce two wonderful words, which really should exist in English: mamihlapinatapai, the awkward longing of a young would-be mate, and zugungruhe, or migration anxiety. A great science book that reads like a novel.

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