Erika Howsare calls us to contemplate our cervine compatriots.
On this week’s episode, journalist Erika Howsare discusses The Age of Deer: Trouble and Kinship With Our Wild Neighbors (Catapult, Jan. 2), a fascinating exploration of a species with which we share our habitat—creatures we may notice but may never fully comprehend. Howsare, a writer, journalist, and poet from southwestern Pennsylvania, holds an MFA from Brown University and lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia with her family. In a starred review, Kirkus calls The Age of Deer “outstanding natural history writing” that will foment readers’ interest in and appreciation for these complex creatures.
Here’s a bit more from our review: “‘Deer are the largest wild animals we still live with in any widespread way, one of the signal species of our time, as firmly established in our cities as in our national parks,’ writes journalistHowsare. They are definitely not tame, but it’s a fallacy that they prefer untouched wilderness.…In parallel with bison, they were driven nearly to extinction by hunters after the arrival of European settlers. During their low point in the early 1900s, they survived in isolated pockets, but conservation and restocking supercharged them into a spectacular wildlife restoration success story—so much so that they began to wreak havoc on farms, parks, and gardens.…Howsare is not a hunter, but she is evenhanded, agreeing that to eat meat and oppose killing animals doesn’t make sense. She delivers sympathetic portraits of her brother, an avid hunter, and of hunting ranches, largely denounced by the hunting establishment, where customers pay a small fortune to shoot deer and other wildlife.”
While there’s no solid, specific origin story behind The Age of Deer, Howsare begins by telling me some of the inspiration behind her work. We discuss a wide range of topics, including how deer helped shape modern park aesthetics; how the U.S. deer population has changed in our lifetimes (since the ’70s and ’80s, respectively); debunking deer myths; and the deer beds she discovered behind her Virginia home. We then turn to language (e.g., how to tell if a narrative nonfiction writer has a background in poetry; whether Howsare perceives herself as growing more careful with language over time), the book’s illustrations, and a few last thoughts.
Then editors Laura Simeon, Mahnaz Dar, Eric Liebetrau, and Laurie Muchnick share their top picks in books for the first week of 2024.
Not Quite a Ghost by Anne Ursu (Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins)
Everywhere Beauty Is Harlem: The Vision of Photographer Roy DeCarava by Gary Golio, illus. by E.B. Lewis (Calkins Creek/Astra Books for Young Readers)
John Lewis: In Search of the Beloved Community by Raymond Arsenault (Yale Univ.)
Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (Atlantic Monthly)
ALSO MENTIONED ON THIS EPISODE:
The Disapparition of James by Anne Ursu
The Illusions by Liz Hyder
Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by Jamey Christoph
Voices in the Mirror by Gordon Parks
Fighting With Love: The Legacy of John Lewis by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illus. by James E. Ransome
The Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-Eun, trans. by Lizzie Buehler
THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS:
Air-Conditioned Bus Tours by David G. Swanson
The Sins of Kings by Daniel Thomas Valente
Liar, Alleged by David Vass
Storm Cloud Rising by Jason Lancour
Death Is Potential by Bob Burnett
Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.