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Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape [Hardcover]

Jay Griffiths
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 May 2013

Kith is a passionate examination of what it means to be a child, by Jay Griffiths, the award-winning author of Wild.

While travelling the world in order to write her award-winning book Wild, Jay Griffiths became increasingly aware of the huge differences in how childhood is experienced in various cultures. One central riddle, in particular, captured her imagination: Why are so many children in Euro-American cultures unhappy -- and why is it that children in many traditional cultures seem happier?

In Kith, Jay Griffiths explores these questions and many more. Moving from communities in West Papua and the Arctic to the ostracised young people of contemporary Britain, she asks why we have enclosed our children in a consumerist cornucopia but denied them the freedoms of space, time and deep play. She uses history, philosophy, language and literature to illustrate children's affinity for the natural world and the essential quest element of childhood.

Kith is Jay Griffiths' impassioned, illuminating analysis of a universal rite of passage. In its urgent defence of the rights and needs of every child, it is a journey into the heart of human experience.

'Kith could have been written by no-one but Jay Griffiths. It is ablaze with her love of the physical world and her passionate moral sense that goodness and a true relation with nature are intimately connected. She has the same visionary understanding of childhood that we find in Blake and Wordsworth, and John Clare would have read her with delight. Her work isn't just good -- it's necessary' Philip Pullman

'Jay Griffiths writes with such richness and mischief about the one thing that could truly save the world: its children' KT Tunstall

'An impassioned, visionary plea to restore to our children the spirit of adventure, freedom and closeness to nature that is their birthright. We must hear it and act on it before it is too late' Iain McGilchrist

Jay Griffiths is the author of Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time; Wild: An Elemental Journey; and A Love Letter from a Stray Moon, a novella about the life of Frida Kahlo. She is the winner of the inaugural Orion Book Award and of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for the best new non-fiction writer to be published in the USA. She has also been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize and the World Book Day award.

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Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape + Wild: An Elemental Journey + Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (2 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241144345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241144343
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.2 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 238,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


If bravery itself could write (by definition it can't), it would write, I believe, like she does (John Berger)

[Griffiths has] the intelligence of a naturalist and the luminous originality of a visitor from another planet (The Times)

Griffiths's writing is dexterous and lush (New York Times Book Review)

A rich and extraordinary vision. Jay Griffiths is a fearless adventurer with words and images. I salute her courage (Philip Pullman)

Jay Griffiths is one of our most poetic and passionate critics of the ways of civilisation. Provocative, illuminating and shamelessly romantic (Theodore Zeldin)

Jay Griffiths writes with such richness and mischief about the one thing that could truly save the world: its children (KT Tunstall)

An impassioned, visionary plea to restore to our children the spirit of adventure, freedom and closeness to nature that is their birthright. We must hear it and act on it before it is too late (Iain McGilchrist)

About the Author

Jay Griffiths is the author of Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time and Wild: An Elemental Journey, both hugely acclaimed by readers, writers and musicians alike. A Love Letter from a Stray Moon, a fictionalised account on the life of Frida Kahlo, was released as an exclusive Penguin Special in 2012. She grew up in England and now lives in Wales.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an important book. read it. 21 Jun 2013
By tintin
I always get the sense when I am reading something by Jay Griffiths that what she is saying is very important and needs to be heard. Badly. I had that feeling strongly with her previous book `Wild' and this book `Kith' gives me the same feeling.
If you are a parent (as I am), you must put away your parental worries when you read this book (and all the 'well I can't possibly do that!' reactions) because this is not a manual (she is clear about that) and is not about parents and what they do/don't do. It is about the much wider picture of how society in the west has shifted and what affect that is having on childhood, children - and their parents. It is as much about the need to re-evaluate and listen to the voices of the romantic movement once again and the idea that our world has become dominated by left brain thinking - the left brain being the side of the brain that is busy with analysis, detail and organising - to the detriment of the right brain which perceives the wider patterns, the deeper relationships between things and the connections between ourselves and our world. (and if you want corroboration of this see this extraordinary talk by a neuroscientist who had a left brain stroke
Jay Griffiths speaks of the history of the politics of land enclosure, of the separation from the land, the gradual enclosure of childhood in houses and bedrooms and the triumph of consumerism that likes children in their houses so toys and electronics replace rivers, dens, woods, snails, bugs, sticks and dirt.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astounding book 8 May 2013
Kith is a shattering, uplifting, terrifying, fascinating book. Reading it, I found myself overwhelmed by a mixture of loss, anger and understanding. When Griffiths makes the connection between the enclosure of the land and the enclosure of childhood, it triggers one of those rare moments of enlightenment in which so much that seemed hazy or incomprehensible before suddenly makes sense. From then onwards, as the story built, I found myself profoundly shaken by the madness of the ways in which we have treated children and - through their continuing exclusion from public spaces, through the detached parenting of babies which some childcare gurus still preach, through the enclosure and marshalling of childrens' time, through their recruitment as consumers and brand ambassadors and many other forms of neglect and imposition - treat them still. Kith is a plea for freedom, for experimentation, discovery, wonder, delight and joy at the time of life when all these things should come - and be offered - naturally, and we should heed it.

It is beautifully, astonishingly written: almost one long poem. It will sweep you up and bundle you away.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Not just good, but necessary' 4 May 2013
This impressive extensively (both desk and field) researched work has received endorsements from Philip Pullman ('Her work is not just good - it's necessary'), Theodore Zeldin ('one of our most poetic and passionate critics... provocative, illuminating and shamelessly romantic'), as well as John Berger, KT Tunstall, Niall Griffiths and Iain McGilchrist. So I don't need to add much here except to say that they are right. This book is not a dispassionate survey, but an engaged and engaging literary experience, which takes you both back to your own childhood, and around the childhood and kith across the globe. It's exhilarating, reflective and poetic. Simply outstanding.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fabulous Rallying Cry for Childhood 5 May 2013
I loved this book - it's so full of energy and insight. A really different take on childhood, mixing history, anthropology, memoir, literature and history - it reminded me of what's unique and good about childhood. This is also a work of literature rather than straight up history, and it should be read as a lyrical literary work that requires a sensitive, subtle reader who is able to move beyond the literal. It's a special book, a rollicking read, an emotional polemic, a rallying cry, a passionate look back at the Romantic poets, and a brave book about what makes our childhoods important, throughout our lives. I highly recommend this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another bravura performance from Jay Griffiths 19 Aug 2013
By Alice
Griffiths is a unique voice in literature. With a ferocious and fearless intellect she dissects our political landscape. So far, so impressive. But it is her visionary insight into fundamental human truths that touches the nerve. And it is her beauteous facility with language that brackets her works with those of great literature.

Griffiths describes why we all - and, most punishingly, children - fail to thrive when deprived of our 'kith'. Why the lack of connection to, and freedom in, our land throttles an essential wellspring of the human animal.

The startling insights in 'Kith' cannot properly be described, however, by any reductionist précis. It is rather the sensitivity of Griffiths' observations which are transformative, having the ability to take us to places we had forgotten we knew. For example:

"A hush surrounds the daydreaming child, a different kind of air; as if the nearby air of the ordinary had evaporated into the air which the soul breathes..."

transported me from the de-sensitivity of adulthood to again experience the wondering, entranced reverie which we felt as children when our minds drifted magically and without boundary over all that is known and unknown.

Or again:

"Before a mirror had meaning, before my skin was a boundary, I remember nature as if it were inside me. Birds sang and I heard it inside. It snowed: I snowed. It rained: I rained... I was all the world and all the world was me"

vividly conjures the Zen state that children naturally experience, and adults in deep meditation attain, on transcending the crude and artificial dualism of subject/object.

This work is, like Griffiths' other books, an exposition of rare beauty because it is transformative, re-opening our hearts to the truths of life which we buried far, far away when we stopped being all the world and tried to be an 'adult'.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars wake up!!
Essential reading full stop!

Beautifully written and easy to read, this book speaks to the depths of your soul, where you know truth is being spoken. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Sarah
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and original
The author has a totally original approach. She combines an incredible intellect with compassion and empathy and a way of using words that's quite stunning. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Lydia Vulliamy
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of 'Kith' by Jay Griffiths
A beautifully poetic book which not only takes the reader on a journey through various child-rearing methods of indigenous tribes from across the world, but which also challenges... Read more
Published 12 months ago by IzzyMorgana
4.0 out of 5 stars good buy from Amazon
bought as a gift for a student relative - she was very pleased with the delivery time and the condition of the book
Published 12 months ago by Susie Q
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and impassioned polemic
I was in a Sámi hut in Northern Norway, in a disparate group gathered around a fire, listening to stories. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Michael Walling
5.0 out of 5 stars Child Development?
This is it. If you have your own childen or work with them in any capacity, you must read this. Reclaim childhood from the psycho- fascists before these "experts" destroy... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Invoice
5.0 out of 5 stars insprational book for those who know about (or want to know more...
for those who know about (or want to know more about!) all ages of people (including children!). It puts emphasis on the whole person (quite refreshing for me as I'm used to Mr... Read more
Published 16 months ago by JaneyH
5.0 out of 5 stars How children matter
I love this book. It's wise and generous, passionate, evocative and moving, with a real warmth towards children and childhood. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Tim Kershaw
5.0 out of 5 stars A Key to Unlocking the Mysteries of Childhood
This is a beautiful book: and a timely one too.
Just as there is an economic crisis in the western world, so there is a parenting one, mostly out of sight behind closed doors... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Baron Rock
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating.
I'm not sure that I totally agree with Jay Griffiths but the thesis is nevertheless fascinating and very well written.
Published 17 months ago by Book Worm
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