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A Country Called Childhood

Children and the Exuberant World

List Price: $17.95

November 10, 2015 | Paperback | 6 x 9, 432 Pages | ISBN 9781619025844
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Finalist for the 2015 Orion Book Award in Nonfiction

While traveling the world in order to write her award-winning book Wild, Jay Griffiths became increasingly aware of the huge differences in how childhood is experienced in various cultures. One central riddle in particular captured her imagination: Why are so many children in Euro-American cultures unhappy—and why is it that children in traditional cultures seem happier?

In A Country Called Childhood, Griffiths seeks to discover why we deny our children the freedoms of space, time and the natural world. Visiting communities as far apart as West Papua and the Arctic as well as the UK, and delving into history, philosophy, language and literature, she explores how children’s affinity for nature is an essential and universal element of childhood. It is a journey deep into the heart of what it means to be a child, and it is central to all our experiences, young and old.

JAY GRIFFITHS is the author of Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at TimeWild: An Elemental Journey, and Love Letter from a Stray Moon, a novella about the life of Frida Kahlo. She is the winner of the inaugural Orion Book Award and of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for the best new non-fiction writer to be published in the USA. She grew up in England and now lives in Wales.


A Country Called Childhood is almost shockingly beautiful, a profoundly felt, deeply thought, fiercely argued examination of childhood, a plea against the corruption of children’s innate nobility, and a plunge into the reasons for their unhappiness… [Jay] is a radical thinker, and there are real and urgent insights on almost every page of her manifesto.” —New York Times Book Review

“[Jay] adds a lush texture of myth and cultural reference that is often extremely seductive… The exuberance of her thought and of her prose is matched by the exuberance of her desire—that nature-starved children be granted the real outdoors, the unenclosed ‘Eden, common as chaffinches,’ not simply a few urban trees planted to shade a playground. That exuberant hope seems to me absolutely necessary today…” —The New Republic

“Parents who love deep philosophical and critical thinking about the hot-button topic of over-parenting will relish A Country Called Childhood.” —Parents Magazine

“What is fascinating about Griffiths’s book is how deftly and poetically she brings together stories and ideas from a vast body of literature and a wide range of cultures and individuals… In the deepest sense, A Country Called Childhood is a highly personal, passionate, and inspiring call to bring childhood back to its roots in nature and imagination.” —Orion

A Country Called Childhood is an astonishment… a must-read for every parent, teacher, child psychiatrist, or psychologist, anyone who works with kids. Not an easy book, it is a necessary one.” —Philadelphia Inquirer

“The combination of a sociological perspective with a lyrical style makes this a seductively readable work, each page peppered with references to cultural icons, authors, philosophers, historians, and other great thinkers.” —Publishers Weekly

“Griffiths goes beyond the current debates on child-rearing practices… and examines what she considers a more fundamental flaw: the separation of children from a natural environment… A provocative critique of modern society.” —Kirkus

“Griffiths is a committed and passionate author, who immerses herself in subjects with an impressive verve… Here she crisscrosses the globe to investigate issues of parenting and childhood in both contemporary and historic cultures.” —Booklist

“A Country Called Childhood could have been written by no-one but Jay Griffiths. It is ablaze with her love of the physical world and her passionate moral sense that goodness and a true relation with nature are intimately connected. She has the same visionary understanding of childhood that we find in Blake and Wordsworth, and John Clare would have read her with delight. Her work isn’t just good—it’s necessary.” —Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials

“Jay Griffiths’ works are original, inspiring and dare you to search beyond the accepted norm.” —Nikolai Fraiture, The Strokes

“Jay Griffiths is one of the clearest, most eloquent and moving voices raising the alarm about the way children are being raised, or in some cases lowered, by the business-school model of child-rearing. That model now holds dominion in our public schools, our neighborhoods, and in too many of our homes. ‘A Country Called Childhood’ calls for an uprising of kindness and love.“ —Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle

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