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The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman Hardcover – 8 Nov 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 648 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (8 Nov. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674724682
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674724686
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 464,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Kopenawa provides a fascinating glimpse into his life as well as into Yanomami cultural beliefs and practices, setting his story against the various threats the Yanomami people and their forest have faced since the 1960s...Kopenawa's story is eloquent, engaging, and thought-provoking, exuding heartfelt wisdom. This extraordinary and richly detailed work is an outstanding explication of the Yanomami worldview as well as a plea to all people to respect and preserve the rain forest. --Elizabeth Salt"Library Journal (starred review)" (10/01/2013)

"Ultimately, it is Kopenawa's voice that tells us who he is, who his people are, and who we are to them. It is complex and nuanced; I'd go so far as to call The Falling Skya literary treasure: invaluable as academic reading, but also a must for anyone who wants to understand more of the diverse beauty and wonder of existence." --Daniel L. Everett, New Scientist, 18 November 2013

"This unique book challenges us to look anew at the infamous indigenous Yanomami culture, and ourselves." --New Scientist Best Books of 2013, December 2013

Anthropologists and other specialists will find much to relish in this beautifully crafted evocation of Yanomami culture and philosophy. Based on hundred of hours of interviews taped in native language, it is enriched by almost a hundred pages of footnotes, ethnobiological and geographic glossaries, bibliographical references, detailed indexes and, last but not least, an easy by Bruce Albert on how he wrote the book. --Tmes Literary Supplement

About the Author

Davi Kopenawa is a shaman and an internationally known spokesperson of the Brazilian Yanomami.

Bruce Albert, a French anthropologist who has worked with the Yanomami in Brazil since 1975, is Research Director at the Research Institute for Development (IRD), Paris, and Associate Researcher at the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), Sao Paulo.


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Format: Hardcover
One of the most important books of our time. If you really want to know about tribal peoples, read this. The first book by a Yanomami Indian is in four parts. 1) A first-hand account of shamanism (you won't find better). 2) The autobiography of Davi Kopenawa, who played the key role in saving his people. 3) His, often surprising, views about us, which examine our very different values. 4) Notes and articles by his translator, an anthropologist who's worked with the Yanomami for decades. This is far ahead of any other book about these Indians. It should be required reading for all interested in Amazonia, shamanism, the destruction of minorities, where the world's heading, and how to change it. Primarily, a searing testament to the variety of human genius which has blossomed over thousands of generations. The shaman says that if we destroy the Indians, we destroy ourselves. If you can cope with prejudices being rattled, his message deserves to be heard. (For a long review & extracts - once it's written! - search `Yanomami Survival International'.)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A great story and buying it supports Survival which is doing so much around the world for tribal peoples.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fantastic reading
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 16 reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OUTSTANDING AND PATHBREAKING AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF YANOMAMI SHAMAN AND WORLD-RENOWNED POLITICAL LEADER 4 Dec. 2013
By Robin M Wright - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having just published a book on shamans of the Northwest Amazon, Mysteries of the Jaguar Shamans of the Northwest Amazon (University of Nebraska Press, 2013), at almost the same time as Bruce Albert/Davi Kopenawa's book, I wish to express my tremendous admiration for this book. I know how difficult it can be to be a shaman's apprentice and to express in a foreign language (French, then English) the poetry and spiritual sensibilities of a complex and world-renowned shaman such as Davi. Bruce Albert has been working with them since at least the early 1970s. Yes, he worked in Catrimani, but his data are not the sort that Saffirio was writing about. Saffirio was Chagnon's student; he was a missionary and student of Anthropology. Today, he works as a parish priest in California. Bruce Albert has never left the Yanomami. He was one of the original founding members of the Commission to Create the Yanomami Park; he was instrumental in the struggle to create the Yanomami Indian Park. He has dedicated his entire career to understanding the Yanomami way of life. He debunked the false analysis made by Chagnon of the Yanomami as a "fierce people", and this book is a major demonstration of how Yanomami shamans, and political leaders, see the world of the Whites. If he criticizes "Shaky", Davi does so for a very good reason. I request that the comments made by the first "reviewer" "ANNE FRIEDEMANN" be removed from Amazon-com's review of the book. They are not comments about the book; they are ad hominem attacks against Bruce Albert which are not worth a penny.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The voice of a native Amazonian 25 Dec. 2013
By Catarina - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an astonishing book, a gripping story, and a poetic revelation of an entirely different world view than our own. Every single page sparkles with provocative meditations on the impact that industrial societies have on the environment and the role of Yanomami shamans in protecting it for the sake of all humanity. “The shamans do not only repel the dangerous things to protect the inhabitants of the forest. They also work to protect the white people who live under the same sky. This is why if [the shamans] die, the white people will remain alone and helpless on their ravaged land... If they persist in devastating the forest, all the unknown and dangerous beings that inhabit and defend it will take revenge....The sky, which is as sick from the white people's fumes as we are, will start moaning and begin to break apart" (pp. 404-405).

The authorship of this gem is unprecedented: rather than being yet another in a long list of studies of the Yanomami written by outsiders, “The Falling Sky” is the first book narrated by a Yanomami author, Davi Kopenawa. No other treatise offers this insider‘s perspective; no other narrative takes us so intimately into the confidences of the Yanomami people; no other account so dramatically unravels the extraordinary complexity of Yanomami philosophy. None of our self-critiques of what our industrial societies are doing to the environment rings quite so authentically as Davi Kopenawa's, written as it is from a point of view that is unique, startling, and riveting. Besides his intriguing explanations of Yanomami beliefs, Kopenawa is also a sort of indigenous anthropologist studying Western society, turning the tables on who studies whom. As perceptive as many Western anthropologists have been, none has the vantage point that Kopenawa does as someone who grew up Yanomami and, based on later intercultural experiences, learned how to translate Yanomami concepts to foreigners in a way that no one else has ever succeeded in doing. He says, “I did not learn to think about the things of the forest by setting my eyes on paper skins. I saw them for real by drinking my elders’ breath of life… I had my account drawn in the white people’s language so it could be heard far from the forest. Maybe they will finally understand my words… Then their thoughts about us will cease being so dark and twisted and maybe they will even wind up losing the will to destroy us. If so, our people will stop dying in silence, unbeknownst to all, like turtles hidden on the forest floor” (p. 23).

Only someone with an ethnocentric bias, like Alice Friedemann, who reviewed this book without even reading it (!), would so categorically dismiss such a ground-breaking book or urge potential readers to buy an entirely different book, written by an American academic whose anti-Yanomami biases have been criticized for decades by numerous commentators. Native voices have been silenced for centuries by repressive colonial powers: did Alice really have to add insult to injury by censoring “The Falling Sky”? Isn’t it time we just stop listening to our own babbling and, for once, hear what a survivor from one of the last remote tribes has to say? She pretends to offer apologies to Kopenawa as she goes on a witch hunt after Bruce Albert, the anthropologist who interviewed Kopenawa and helped him prepare the book for publication, but her mea culpa rings hollow, since she advises skipping the book altogether. More turtles may die unbeknownst to all…

For correctives to Alice Friedemann’s warped review, readers should check out the pointed replies to her post offered by professionals who are familiar with the Yanomami. It is especially worthwhile to read Bruce Albert’s refutation of her unwarranted attacks on him and his defense of Davi Kopenawa; unfortunately, his remarks are buried in the “Comments” link under Alice’s review, but readers can access it through the appropriate button.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding contribution to anthropology and a riveting autobiography 4 Dec. 2013
By Eduardo Batalha Viveiro - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is the most important anthropological book ever written by/about the Yanomami, and the most moving life history of a Native American person published so far. Amazon (and Amazonia-loving) customers are strongly urged to give that extraordinary book a chance before joining the flock of Chagnon's fanaticized supporters.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading 5 Dec. 2013
By William 1066 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
One of the most important books of our time. If you really want to know about tribal peoples, read this. The first book by a Yanomami Indian is in four parts. 1) A first-hand account of shamanism (you won’t find better). 2) The autobiography of Davi Kopenawa, who played the key role in saving his people. 3) His, often surprising, views about us, which examine our very different values. 4) Notes and articles by his translator, an anthropologist who’s worked with the Yanomami for decades. This is far ahead of any other book about these Indians. It should be required reading for all interested in Amazonia, shamanism, the destruction of minorities, where the world’s heading, and how to change it. Primarily, a searing testament to the variety of human genius which has blossomed over thousands of generations. The shaman says that if we destroy the Indians, we destroy ourselves. If you can cope with prejudices being rattled, his message deserves to be heard. (For a long review & extracts – once it’s written! – search ‘Yanomami Survival International’.)
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique and awesome masterpiece. 9 Feb. 2014
By Leslie E. Sponsel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This Yanomami treatise is a truly unique and awesome masterpiece. Like never before, it allows the reader the very special privilege of beginning to enter, understand, and appreciate the complex and profound mental and spiritual realms of the Yanomami in their sacred forest habitat. It reveals their intellectually rich and complex cosmology and symbolism as well as their mysterious shamanic rituals. The devastating processes and consequences of Western contact are also addressed through the unique perspective of the Yanomami shaman and leader Davi Kopenawa. Based on his observations during travels in Brazil since 1958 and abroad since 1989, this book also offers a fascinating and devastating Yanomami critique of aspects of the West including some of its social and ecological pathologies like pollution and poverty.

The extraordinary friendship and collaboration between Kopenawa and French anthropologist Bruce Albert gradually developed over several decades. Their book is the product of 93 hours of interviews, most conducted during 1989-1992 and 1993-2001. Albert transcribed the recordings into over 1,000 pages, all in the Yanomami language. Albert frames the main text, which is exclusively the most careful translation of Kopenawa's own thoughts, with supplemental material reflecting only the very highest quality of scholarship and science. This is all solidly grounded in Albert's regular fieldwork in basic and applied anthropology with the Yanomami since March 1975.

This tome is certainly by far one of the most important and illuminating books I have ever read in my four decades in anthropology. It is destined to become a classic in the history of anthropology, and, more importantly, a benchmark in the Yanomami's own history. In the outside world this book should be relevant not only to serious students of the Yanomami, but to anyone interested in the Amazon forests and its peoples, shamanism, anthropology of religion, culture contact and change, and advocacy and human rights, or cultural, historical, political, and spiritual ecologies, among many other subjects.
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