The Mushroom at the End of the World

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I was fortunate enough to be assigned this book for a transnational lives graduate seminar.  When it came in the mail, I was away from home and asked my husband to open the package so I knew which book had arrived. When he saw the title, he told me “This isn’t for school, this is a “you” book!” Sometimes, reading assignments can perfectly align with your interests.

This book tracks a mushroom that cannot be mass produced (and thus mass marketed) and draws a wide specialized global market. The mushroom is used as a metaphor for the often displaced and disjointed lives engaged in by people such as immigrants, refugees, survivors, and capitalist dissidents. The mushroom only grows in disturbed forests, both its thriving and its harvest occur in tandem with the spoils of modern notions of development. The book uses this metaphor to speak about adaption, survival, and the territorial and ideological limits of seemingly all-pervasive forces. It is a very sensory experience that speaks through smells and tastes as much as through text.

Eslanda Robeson

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Finished this book tonight, and rather sad to have it be done. What an inspiring lady! The many reflections in this book brought me in ways to a better understanding of myself. Essie was an anthropologist who was not entirely academic, but driven by a love of the world and a desire to glory in it’s cultures, defend the marginalized/dehumanized, and set right and fair all the world’s wrongs. Her story is an important brick in the wall of understanding American history- she was an absolute agitator because there was so much in the status quo that was worthy of agitating against- and to read about her life is to understand that she was more than a trailblazer, she was a… trail volcano? This book is written to be an informative and adoring  document displaying who Essie was.  Because of who she was, it often reads more like a textbook than a biography.  The woman was so involved with the political climate of her time and honestly, of the future, that describing her interactions and activities becomes almost immediately a work of academic detail.

eslanda This is a perfect summary of how and why she demands such an academic voice.  She has become, for me, an iconic hero.

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