Beavers pose an evolutionary puzzle – part bear, part bird, part monkey, part lizard, humanoid hands, an aquatic tail. Is it any surprise that beavers have fired the human imagination?
In Beaverland: How One Weird Rodent Made America, Leila Philip explores how this amazing animal has played an outsized role in American history and can play an important role in its future. She follows fur trappers who lead her through waist high water, fur traders and fur auctioneers, as well as wildlife managers, PETA activists, Native American environmental vigilantes, scientists, engineers, and the colorful group of activists known as beaver believers.
What emerges is a poignant personal narrative, a startling portrait of the secretive world of the contemporary fur trade, and an engrossing ecological and historical investigation of these heroic animals who, once trapped to the point of extinction, have returned to the landscape as one of the greatest conservation stories of the 20th century. Beaverland reveals the profound ways in which one odd creature and the trade surrounding it has shaped history, culture, and our environment.
Leila Philip is the author of award-winning books of nonfiction that chronicle diverse, personal journeys. In The Road Through Miyama, Leila, already fluent in Japanese and a potter, traveled to Japan to apprentice to a master potter in southern Kyushu. A Family Place: A Hudson Valley Farm, Three Centuries, Five Wars, One Family, took her much closer to home (literally), and weaves the history of the Hudson valley farm where she spent her childhood with a revealing account of what’s involved in cultivating orchards. Both books received awards, and glowing national reviews. A Guggenheim Fellow, Leila has also been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She works across genres, publishing poetry, essays and theatrical script and is currently at work on a documentary film. She was a contributing columnist at the Boston Globe and teaches in the Environmental Studies Program at the College of the Holy Cross where she is a professor in the English Department.