Beyond Innocence: Jane Goodall's Autobiography in Letters, The Later Years

Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001

Africa in My Blood: Jane Goodall's Autobiography in Letters, The Early Years

Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000

These two volumes I edited in a fashion that tells Jane Goodall’s life story largely in her own words. The idea of a letters collection came to me soon after I began, in early 1997, working on her biography. I was visiting her family home in England for the first time, doing some preliminary interviews, and getting to know the family. One morning after I sat down to breakfast in their kitchen, Jane’s mother, Vanne, appeared, clutching a ragged bundle of scrap paper. “Dale,” she said, “I thought perhaps you might be interested in this.” She laid the bundle in front of me, and, as I soon discovered, it contained letters from Jane written in Africa, mailed home, some of them penned in the field while she was waiting for the chimps to appear. As I quickly realized, they were just beautifully written—personal, witty, insightful, powerfully observed. A few days later and Vanne had discovered more letters; and over the next few years, more and more kept turning up. What a treasure! Other letters emerged from the National Geographic files, more from friends, several from business files maintained by Jane and her institute, and a few turned up at the bottom of a tin trunk in her cabin at Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. It’s always been my own quietly personal opinion that her letters are her very best writing, and I do strongly recommend the collection to anyone wishing for a quick and pleasurable insight into the woman and her life.

The early years volume has been translated into Chinese.

Beyond Innocence
Africa in my Blood
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The Riggs Blog: Erikson Scholar Dale Peterson, PhD, Explores Love and Death with Chimpanzees in the Middle »

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Beyond the Biography of Jane Goodall (35min.) »

Join Dale Peterson, author of "Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man", as he discusses Goodall’s impact on the study of animal behavior.