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Elisabeth WrightCultural AnthropologyBook ReportNisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman“That’s my life… I lived and lived and lived and now I’m old.” (Pg. 317). This line,taken from the last paragraph of the bookNisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung WomanbyMarjorie Shostak is a line that has stuck with me after I finished reading it. It reflects a generaltheme of the book. Nisa, the subject of the book often ended her stories with a phrase akin to“Then we continued to live and live”. Marjorie Shostak offers a candid description of thiswomans life, through Nisa’s vivid storytelling. In each chapter, Shostak offers an introduction tomake the reader aware of the customs of the tribe in relation to the topic of the chapter. Nisa’sstories are then laid out, just as she said them. This book offers a look into the fascinating,exciting, sometimes tragic, life of Nisa.The book begins with an introduction by Marjorie Shostak. It details all of the manystruggles she had adjusting to life among the !Kung people. She starts out by detailing herdifficulties learning the language, and adjusting to the harsh climate. Once she had a basicmastery of the language she was able to do a great many things with the !Kung people. She talksabout her experiences going on hunting and gathering excursions, talking with the people, andadjusting to their diet and living practices. However, even having such luck with the !Kungpeople, Shostak was unhappy with her findings. She wanted the people she talked with to beopen and forthcoming, while they had shown restraint and didn’t talk about the things she
wanted to talk about. Shostak wanted to learn particularly about the women of the !Kung tribe.What were their relationships like? How did they see themselves? Did they have a similarexperience as western women in navigating their life? As a young woman who was recentlymarried, Shostak was very curious as to what these women could teach her not only about theircultures, but her own.In her mission to get an accurate account of the life of a !Kung woman, Shostak talked tomany women of various ages. Still, as she was nearing the end of her time living with the !Kung,she wasunsatisfied. When she met Nisa, the subject of the book, at first she didn’t like her. Afterspeaking to her the first time, and hearing a story about how Nisa’s mother threatened to kill herinfant brother so Nisa could continue nursing, Shostak that that Nisa might be lying orexaggerating the story. With time, however, Shostak accepted that that is what Nisa believed tobe true about the event. When Shostak was very near to leaving, she decided to formally workwith Nisa.The account of Nisa’s life begins with her very earliest memories. These happen to be ofnursing on her mother. While this would be very strange for children in our society, among the !