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Chasing Tarzan... Like Chasing Your Childhood--And Catching Handfuls of It


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Catherine Forster, author of Chasing Tarzan, took me back to my childhood. As I read her memoir, I journeyed back to my own youth.


I'm in my 60s, so I think I am close in age to Forster. The small details of her day-to-day life were details I remembered. The uncertainty... the constant concern over clothing choices or what others thought. 


I had to laugh when Catherine was reading the comments in her yearbook at the end of 9th grade. So many peers wrote she was "nice" or "sweet," and it made her determined to not be thought of in such boring terms ever again. Every teen wants to stand out (in a positive way) and make their mark. Every teen wants to be remembered forever because of their talent or their attractive appearance, or their charismatic personality. I too remember looking at the comments that my classmates wrote, and was upset that most of them were probably things that they wrote in everybody's yearbook. Stay as sweet as you are. (I didn't think I was ever sweet. I was sarcastic.) Stay in touch. (Anybody who wrote that was not anyone I was interested in staying in contact, and the feeling was mutual.) 2 good + 2 be = 4 gotten (how idiotic).


Catherine had to deal with bullying. Certainly bullying is different these days--what with group chats and texts and messages that can be sent to a whole school in an instant--but as a teacher, I think this memoir is a valuable book to have on classroom shelves. It's proof that the road to survival and self-worth is not a straight one and it's not without its obstacles.


It also encourages teens to become risk takers. Broadening one's horizon can have an incredible impact. The author lived in New Zealand through AFS. In my senior year, we hosted a French girl for a year (also through AFS). It was life-changing, and led to many trips to France (for me) and back to America (for my French sister Virginie). Catherine's time in New Zealand was life-changing as well...


Check out Chasing Tarzan. You'll laugh at spots, and you'll tear up at others. But throughout the whole book, you'll nod your head as you remember your own awkward teen years...


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                                                                    Catherine Forster

Sioux Roslawski is a middle school teacher, a dog rescuer and the author of Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story. In her spare time she rescues golden retrievers from places as far away as Turkey and China. You can read more of her writing by going to her blog.


(By the way... AFS is the best exchange program around. They do the most screening, they have the best support and they don't just air-drop kids into foreign countries and say, "You're on your own now.")


Book Summary

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)

ISBN-10: 1947966618

ISBN-13: 978-1947966611

ASIN: ‎B0B6GFLXWC

Print length: 278 pages

Purchase a copy of Chasing Tarzan on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also add this to your Good Reads reading list.


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.

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