The Way Around: Finding My Mother and Myself Among the Yanomami
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Rooted in two vastly different cultures, a young man struggles to understand himself, find his place in the world, and reconnect with his mother—and her remote tribe in the deepest jungles of the Amazon rainforest—in this powerful memoir that combines adventure, history, and anthropology.
“My Yanomami family called me by name. Anyopo-we. What it means, I soon learned, is ‘long way around’: I’d taken the long way around obstacles to be here among my people, back where I started. A twenty-year detour.”
For much of his young life, David Good was torn between two vastly different worlds. The son of an American anthropologist and a tribeswoman from a distant part of the Amazon, it took him twenty years to embrace his identity, reunite with the mother who left him when he was six, and claim his heritage.
The Way Around is Good’s amazing chronicle of self-discovery. Moving from the wilds of the Amazonian jungle to the paved confines of suburban New Jersey and back, it is the story of his parents, his American scientist-father and his mother who could not fully adapt to the Western lifestyle. Good writes sympathetically about his mother’s abandonment and the deleterious effect it had on his young self; of his rebellious teenage years marked by depression and drinking, and the near-fatal car accident that transformed him and gave him purpose to find a way back to his mother.
A compelling tale of recovery and discovery, The Way Around is a poignant, fascinating exploration of what family really means, and the way that the strongest bonds endure, even across decades and worlds.
way, now that I’ve reconnected with Dad in this way, Daniel and I have been coming together in this way, too. Not long after I returned from my second visit to the rainforest, the two of us sat down and got to talking over a couple of beers. Talk turned naturally to Mom—and when I say naturally, you have to realize we’d never really talked about her before, so what might have seemed natural in other families was completely new in ours. Daniel told me what a great thing it was that I had trekked
in time to teach his class that Thursday. There was no time on that tight turnaround to head out to the jungle to check on Mom and Danny, so this was just a quick-in, quick-out trip to collect Vanessa and bring her home. It’s a wonder my father got through this uncertain time. No, the decisions he made on behalf of his family didn’t always shake out to the good, and they didn’t always make sense in retrospect, but they were made on the fly, with a sense of desperation—one Hail Mary pass after
me that people thought our circumstances strange and worrying and that me and my siblings needed protecting, in a child welfare department sort of way. In response, I could only run through her questions with knee-jerk answers: Yes, I miss my mom. Yes, I love my father. No, he never hit me. No, he never touches me. Leave me alone, you vile woman. My teachers and other adults could sniff around all they wanted. They could go out of their way to look for ugliness, but there was no ugliness of
used to be. So, yeah, baseball helped. But it couldn’t help for long. Soon there were girls and alcohol and a whole mess of trouble lining up to set me off my game. I WAS FOURTEEN YEARS old when I had my first taste of hard liquor. I’d found a stash of my dad’s dry gin and wine in a cabinet in the kitchen. It wasn’t any kind of big deal at first. Like a lot of kids, my alcohol consumption was limited by my limited access. But once I’d had my first taste, I only wanted more—a thirst that would
shivering, naked, pathetic . . . It’s a whole other wonder that Karen didn’t leave me right then and there. She told me later that she thought about it, long and hard, but she hung in there. I think Karen really loved me, really believed in me. Her mother, however, started to become deeply concerned. She was starting to realize that I might not be the best match for her daughter, and she invited me to lunch at the Olive Garden one afternoon. Over the years, I’d become really close with Karen’s