Sunday, September 30, 2012

Book review: Pink Boots and a Machete

Pink Boots and a Machete
Mireya Mayor
National Geographic (2011)

This is a terrific book, whether you want to read about a great scientist or about great adventures. A top primatologist and discoverer of a new species of lemur, Mayor tells gritty stories of her aventures around the world, leavened with humor and self-reflection. (I wrote about her in my 2006 book Shadows of Existence, although I accidentally called her a Rhodes scholar instead of a Fulbright scholar. Oops.) Most of this book is taken up with field expeditions, and the strongest message is that finding and conserving wildlife in remote regions of the world is still hard. As in "very hard," as in, "you can die," which she almost did on more than one occasion. Radios and modern gear and even rescue helicopters can't get you out of everything. Mayor includes in her gear a little black dress (social skills can be very handy in remote villages) and on one occasion resorts to blatant sex appeal when there's no other way to get something done. I don't think that demeans or diminishes her at all: it's just something extra in her toolkit, so to speak, for accomplishing work that's very important. Mayor is someone I'd very much like to meet, and the kind of role model I hope my daughters will look up to. Her book is superb.

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