World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments (Hardcover)

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World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments By Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Fumi Nakamura (Illustrator) Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

"I find that term "nature writing" evokes different, and often very strong, emotions in different people. There's the style of Annie Dillard, in which she places herself in nature and tells you all about how it makes her feel. There's David Attenborough's natural history approach, through which you learn all about the flora and fauna, generally as if humans don't exist in the same sphere as whatever he's writing about. There are countless urgent calls to arms about melting ice, crumbling habitats, and carbon emissions.

And then there's World of Wonders. It is, undeniably, a book about things that exist in nature, but it is also a memoir beautifully told by attaching a specific plant or animal to a time in Aimee Nezhukumatathil's life. The story of her life is bookended with chapters on fireflies and the sense of childlike wonder they still bring, while in between are peacocks, corpse flowers, cara cara oranges, and so many other delights. But not everything is truly a delight as Nezhukumatathil is reminded, time and time again that she is a brown person in a predominantly white world, particularly when she ventures into nature.

This book is beautiful, written with so much love. Even when dealing with difficult topics such as racism, ignorance, isolation, and motherhood, when it would be so easy to just make a point and move on, each word is absolutely perfect, creating a softness that I associate with bedtime stories. This is Nezhukumatathil's first book of prose and her background in poetry shines through without ever complicating her writing. When I finished this book, I felt that I had made a new friend, that I had sat beside her when she was singled out by her teacher, that I had swum with a whale shark, that I had magically lived these chapters of her life alongside her."

--Lucinda, Longfellow Books

— From Lucinda Recommends!

September 2020 Indie Next List

“Aimee didn’t know it at the time (or maybe she did in her mystical way), but this book was written for me and all the other brown-skinned, nature-loving, quiet-questers in the world. This beautiful package asks the reader to pick it up and go for a walk down memory lane, where you will find essays on a diversity of flora and fauna, from the dragon fruit to the narwhal, and from the corpse flower to the axolotl — all of which are gorgeously illustrated inside. Her writing asks everyone to find beauty and connection to the wonders that are nature’s stories.”
— Jessica Palacios, Once Upon a Time, Montrose, CA


"Hands-down one of the most beautiful books of the year." --NPR

From beloved, award-winning poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil comes a debut work of nonfiction--a collection of essays about the natural world, and the way its inhabitants can teach, support, and inspire us.

As a child, Nezhukumatathil called many places home: the grounds of a Kansas mental institution, where her Filipina mother was a doctor; the open skies and tall mountains of Arizona, where she hiked with her Indian father; and the chillier climes of western New York and Ohio. But no matter where she was transplanted--no matter how awkward the fit or forbidding the landscape--she was able to turn to our world's fierce and funny creatures for guidance.

"What the peacock can do," she tells us, "is remind you of a home you will run away from and run back to all your life." The axolotl teaches us to smile, even in the face of unkindness; the touch-me-not plant shows us how to shake off unwanted advances; the narwhal demonstrates how to survive in hostile environments. Even in the strange and the unlovely, Nezhukumatathil finds beauty and kinship. For it is this way with wonder: it requires that we are curious enough to look past the distractions in order to fully appreciate the world's gifts.

Warm, lyrical, and gorgeously illustrated by Fumi Nakamura, World of Wonders is a book of sustenance and joy.

About the Author

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of four collections of poems, including, most recently, Oceanic, winner of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award. Other awards for her writing include fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Mississippi Arts Council, and MacDowell. Her writing appears in Poetry, the New York Times Magazine, ESPN, and Tin House. She serves as poetry faculty for the Writing Workshops in Greece and is professor of English and creative writing in the University of Mississippi's MFA program.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781571313652
ISBN-10: 1571313656
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publication Date: September 8th, 2020
Pages: 184
Language: English