Reviewed by Alberto Sveum
Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s debut book of essays is an enchanting meeting of a reflective, lyrical study of the Earth, and the author’s personal history and her awe for the natural world.
From conversing with cardinals in the Midwest to laughing along with bonnet macaques in southern India, Nezhukumatathil has found joy in the beings of the world since early childhood. These celebratory moments—looking for birds with her two young sons, watching the fireflies at the Great Smoky Mountains—bring forth so much light. However, such celebration, such wonder, is also met with some of the darker parts of existence and questions of how humans treat this shared habitat and one another. “Where does one start to take care of these living things amid the dire and daily news of climate change?” she asks. “How can one even imagine us getting back to a place where we know the names of the trees we walk by every single day?” Perhaps it is this childlike wonder itself that can show us how to better treat one another and to revere and protect our planet. Even while encountering a nationalist school teacher and seeing the racism her Filipino mother has gone through in her own life and career, the author finds direction in studying the fireflies, the dragon fruits, and the vampire squids surrounding her and the love with which they fill her. It is only right that the enrapturing beauty of the world is brought into focus by Nezhukumatathil’s lyricism and coupled with Fumi Nakamura’s vibrant and beautiful illustrations.
World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments is a triumph of poetic study and a profound display of care.
Milkweed Editions, Sept. 8, 2020, $25.00 hardcover (184p), ISBN: 978-1-57131-365-2.
Alberto Sveum is an MFA graduate from Indiana University Bloomington, where he also served as the Editor-in-Chief of Indiana Review. Lately, he’s been listening to The Pharcyde and Mazzy Star, watching What We Do in the Shadows, and trying to get outside every day.