Books  Regional Natural History  Americas 

City Creatures: Animal Encounters in the Chicago Wilderness

By: Gavin Van Horn (Author)

264 pages, 102 colour & 16 b/w photos

University of Chicago Press

Hardback | Oct 2015 | #224404 | ISBN-13: 9780226192895
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £20.99 $26/€24 approx

About this book

We usually think of cities as the domain of humans – but we are just one of thousands of species that call the urban landscape home. Chicago residents knowingly move among familiar creatures like squirrels, pigeons, and dogs, but might be surprised to learn about all the leafhoppers and water bears, black-crowned night herons and bison, beavers and massasauga rattlesnakes that are living alongside them. City Creatures introduces readers to an astonishing diversity of urban wildlife with a unique and accessible mix of essays, poetry, paintings, and photographs.

The contributors bring a story-based approach to this urban safari, taking readers on birding expeditions to the Magic Hedge at Montrose Harbor on the North Side, canoe trips down the South Fork of the Chicago River (better known as Bubbly Creek), and insect-collecting forays or restoration work days in the suburban forest preserves.

City Creatures is organized into six sections, each highlighting one type of place in which people might encounter animals in the city and suburbs. For example, schoolyard chickens and warrior wasps populate "Backyard Diversity," live giraffes loom at the zoo and taxidermy-in-progress pheasants fascinate museum-goers in "Animals on Display," and a chorus of deep-freeze frogs awaits in "Water Worlds." Although City Creatures is rooted in Chicago's landscape, nature lovers from cities around the globe will find a wealth of urban animal encounters that will open their senses to a new world that has been there all along. Its powerful combination of insightful narratives, numinous poetry, and full-color art throughout will help readers see the city – and the creatures who share it with us – in an entirely new light.

"The essays, stories, art, poetry, and photography in City Creatures convey one insight after another about modern life, and in particular offer ideas about ethics, the importance of place, displaced species, the diversity of life, religious practice and thinking, and the role of literature and other arts in helping us see our daily lives. Human city dwellers will see their world far better and recognize how to stop harming their local habitat and their fellow urban 'citizens,' building toward coexistence with their nonhuman neighbors."
– Paul Waldau, author of Animal Studies: An Introduction

"City Creatures is a collection of essays, artwork, and poetry from over 50 contributors. It exuberantly spans subjects from the spiritual benefits and moral issues around keeping chickens in the backyard to the unsung contributions of soil mites. We learn about orchid sex and the resurrection of frozen frogs. A scientist gives us a glimpse into the secret lives of urban coyotes. There's a step-by-step description of taxidermy. We are treated to charming accounts of meetings with owls, parrots, skunks, snakes and other animal neighbors, and a haunting glimpse of herons on the concrete-lined banks of a polluted stream. The authors take us bird-watching, snake-hunting, dog-walking, and into Chicago's museums and zoos. The book is about the wildlife of Chicago, but the subjects extend well beyond. After reading City Creatures I was left feeling the strong collective impact of all of those voices. The stories were informative or intimate or funny or sad or all of these things. What I found most unique and unexpected was the book's emotional content. I was touched. I literally laughed and cried, diving forward into each new story, genuinely interested to hear about the next person's wildlife experiences."
– Julie Feinstein, author of Field Guide to Urban Wildlife

"A fascinating collection of thoughtful insights in the richly diverse and surprisingly pulsing urban nature of one of the world's most busy cities. This vivid and passionate book opens our eyes to the wealth of animal life that regularly goes unnoticed in the hustling and bustling of the everyday. The animals we share our city with occupy different urban spaces, geographical areas, and institutional domains as their fleeting presences are captured in this book by essayists, poets, and artists. With its emphasis on local realities and histories, City Creatures sets the model for the eco-urban engagement this decade so urgently needs."
– Giovanni Aloi, editor in chief of Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture and lecturer in modern and contemporary art at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

"Chicago wilderness? Who knew what fabulous creatures you may encounter there! There has never been another book that celebrates so beautifully the ways wild creatures can be encountered in the midst of the asphalt grids and windy shores of this most American of cities."
– David Rothenberg, author of Survival of the Beautiful and Bug Music

"A fascinating and beautiful book linking ecology, anthropology, spirituality, prose, art and poetry that urges us to rediscover our relationship with urban animals. Chicago provides an ideal background for this elegant and engaging examination of how animals and nature can reconnect us back to our own humanity; addressing essential and universal questions for all city-dwellers in this modern age."
– Beatrix Beisner, coeditor of Nature All Around Us

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Gavin Van Horn is the director of Cultures of Conservation for the Center for Humans and Nature, a nonprofit organization that focuses on and promotes conservation ethics. He writes for, edits, and curates the City Creatures blog.

Dave Aftandilian is associate professor of anthropology at Texas Christian University. He is the editor of What Are the Animals to Us? Approaches from Science, Religion, Folklore, Literature, and Art.

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