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Lost Among the Baining: Adventure, Marriage, and Other FieldworkA Travel Memoir

Book of the Week:

"Gail Pool looks back with humor and insight on the year she and her husband spent among the Baining--a remote tribe located in Papua New Guinea...For years afterward, the couple considered their venture a failure, its peculiar tensions resonating throughout their married life until, decades later, they decide to return, bravely facing the arrogance and naivete of their youth, finally reconciling themselves to their first adventure in the field and gaining fresh insight into the enigmatic Baining."

                                                                                --Longitude Books: Recommended Reading for Travelers

 

"This engaging memoir is peppered with figurative language and realistic conflicts neatly interwoven...The author does an excellent job of peeling back the layers of how insiders and outsiders might simultaneously realize the tension and intentions that lie between them."

                                                                                 --Kaavonia Hinton, Foreword Reviews*****

 

"An inherently fascinating and absorbing read, Lost Among the Baining is a remarkably well written, deftly organized, and impressively presented account from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that Lost Among the Baining is also available in a Kindle edition."

                                                                               --Midwest Book Review

 

"My couch is about as far away from Papua New Guinea as one can possibly get. And yet, Gail Pool made her story of the year she and her husband Jeremy spent studying the Baining...feel nearly tangible."

                                                                              --Tahoma Literary Review

 

"Pool presents memoir with humor. Looking for closure and release from the tension created by their year-long anthropologic experience with the indigenous Baining of New Guinea forty years before, Pool and her (ex-anthropologist) husband return for a shorter visit and find they are finally able to plumb the richness of their earlier experience and leave for home no longer afraid, no longer angry, and no longer running."

                                                                              --Book News Reviews ©2015 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR

 

"Lost Among the Baining is undoubtedly the best written account of, and reflection on, fieldwork I have read."

                                                                    --Joel Savishinsky, Professor of Anthropology, Trail of the Hare                     

 

"Loved this book, which appears to be but is more than an account of an anthropological expedition, more than a travel book, more than a memoir."

                                      --Barbara Beckwith, What Was I Thinking?: Digging Deeper into Everyday Racism

  

"Pool's particularly effective management of voice as she describes her lifelong attempt to understand her experience makes this an accomplished work, as does her plumbing of the power of memoir to go where anthropology cannot."

                                     --Nancy McCabe, From Little Houses to Little Women

*****

In the late sixties, I set off with my husband to live with the Baining, an isolated people in Papua New Guinea. He was a graduate student in anthropology; I was an aspiring writer. Many people warned us against this trip, pointing to the stresses of the rugged mountain terrain, our own isolation, and the mystery of the Baining, about whom little was known. But just two years out of college, we were too young to take anyone's advice. We felt thrilled by the challenge.

We stayed for sixteen months--slogging through mud, battling huge insects, arguing with each other. But we never felt we understood the very different culture of our enigmatic hosts. Back home, I put away my journals; my husband left the field of anthropology. We viewed the trip as a fiasco. Yet this powerful experience stayed with us; it had never come to a close. Decades later, we knew we had to return to the people who had changed their lives.

My memoir, Lost Among the Baining looks back with wry humor on this journey to the bush. Writing at a distance, I could laugh at our youthful innocence, appreciate the Baining who took care of us--and welcomed us back, and comprehend the limits of knowing another culture.

In this memoir, I've returned to the world of travel I wrote about in reviews for the Christian Science Monitor and in travel essays for the New York Times. In fact, Lost Among the Baining was inspired partly by an essay I wrote for the travel pages of the Times. The essay, like the book, brings a comic eye to the story. But for all its humor, this is a book about culture shock that deals with the profound differences between cultures: the assumptions that we bring, the fears that we have, and the judgments that we make.