I recently read the memoir Chasing Tarzan. It made me recall many moments in my own youth. I wasn't bullied in the same way the author was, but I am still traumatized when it comes to playing softball. (The kids would all group behind the backstop and yell "Swing!" and I still managed to avoid contact with the ball every time. I learned that if I didn't do my homework, I had to stay in at recess, which meant I wouldn't get made fun of on the ball field.)
The author was a foreign exchange student through AFS, and spent a year in New Zealand. I had a French sister--thanks to AFS--for a year, and just like it changed Forster's life, it also changed Virginie's life and my life. I fell in love with France (just like my son and my daughter and granddaughter), and Virginie has flown back to the US several times. (We crammed a minivan with friends, a niece, a daughter and granddaughter and saw the Grand Canyon for the first time several years ago. It was better than grand.)
Catherine Forster chronicles her journey with incredible detail. Part of the book are funny, and parts are poignant.
I'm putting my copy of Chasing Tarzan on my bookshelf in my classroom. Kids today deal with so much, and Catherine Forster's book might help light their way as they navigate their teen years.
(By the way, as an author, I love the cover. The title really stands out, and the vines add interest and makes the reader's eyes trail down to the title and the author's name.)
In the 1960s, a relentless school bully makes Catherine’s life a living hell. She retreats inward, relying on a rich fantasy life––swinging through the jungle wrapped in Tarzan’s protective arms––and fervent prayers to a God she does not trust. She fasts until she feels faint, she ties a rough rope around her waist as penance, hoping God will see her worthy of His help.
As the second of eight children, Catherine is Mommy’s little helper, and like Mommy, Catherine is overwhelmed. The bullying and the adult responsibilities together foment her anger. She starts smacking her siblings, and becomes her younger sister’s nemesis. Spooked by who she is becoming, Catherine vows to escape for real, before she hurts someone—or herself.
Catherine finds salvation in a high school exchange program: new town, new school, new family, new persona. A passport celebrity. In New Zealand, nobody knows her history or her fears. Except for her Kiwi “mum,” who sees through Catherine’s façade and pulls her out from her inner safe-house. Exposed, her sense of self implodes. Catherine must finally rethink who she is.
Publisher: WiDo Publishing (July 2022)
Print length: 278 pages
Purchase a copy of Chasing Tarzan on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also add this to your
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About the Author
Catherine Forster honed her powers of observation early on, and later applied them to artistic endeavors. Although it didn’t happen overnight, she discovered that seeing and hearing a bit more than the average person can be beneficial. As an artist, her work has exhibited in museums and galleries across the United States and abroad. Her experimental films have won accolades and awards in more than thirty international film festivals, from Sao Paulo to Berlin, Los Angeles to Rome, London to Romania. Through her work, she explores the dynamics of girlhood, notions of identity, and the role technology plays in our relationship with nature. In her capacity as an independent curator, she founded LiveBox, an eight-year project that introduced new media arts to communities at a time when few new what media arts was. For the past four years she has been a member of the curatorial team for the Experiments In Cinema Film Festival held annually in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She received a Masters of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a Masters of Business from the London Business School, and a fellowship in writing from the Vermont Studio Center. She is also included in the Brooklyn Art Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.
You can follow her on her website as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.