The Age of Deer: Trouble and Kinship with Our Wild Neighbors (Paperback)

The Age of Deer: Trouble and Kinship with Our Wild Neighbors By Erika Howsare Cover Image
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A masterful hybrid of nature writing and cultural studies that investigates our connection with deer—from mythology to biology, from forests to cities, from coexistence to control and extermination—and invites readers to contemplate the paradoxes of how humans interact with and shape the natural world

Deer have been an important part of the world that humans occupy for millennia. They’re one of the only large animals that can thrive in our presence. In the 21st century, our relationship is full of contradictions: We hunt and protect them, we cull them from suburbs while making them an icon of wilderness, we see them both as victims and as pests. But there is no doubt that we have a connection to deer: in mythology and story, in ecosystems biological and digital, in cities and in forests. 

Delving into the historical roots of these tangled attitudes and how they play out in the present, Erika Howsare observes scientists capture and collar fawns, hunters show off their trophies, a museum interpreter teaching American history while tanning a deer hide, an animal-control officer collecting the carcasses of deer killed by sharpshooters, and a woman bottle-raising orphaned fawns in her backyard. As she reports these stories, Howsare’s eye is always on the bigger picture: Why do we look at deer in the ways we do, and what do these animals reveal about human involvement in the natural world? For readers of H is for Hawk and Fox & I, The Age of Deer offers a unique and intimate perspective on a very human relationship.

About the Author

ERIKA HOWSARE holds an MFA in literary arts from Brown University and has published two books of poetry. She also worked in local journalism for twenty years, covering culture and environmental issues. She teaches writing and contributes reviews and essays to various national outlets. A native of Pennsylvania, she lives in rural Virginia.

Praise For…

Barnes & Noble, A Most Anticipated Book of the Month
Kirkus Reviews, A Best Book of the Month

"A wide-ranging and deeply intelligent investigation . . . Howsare makes it clear that the human relationship with deer has always been in flux, a mysterious give-and-take with this crepuscular, liminal creature, thriving where the wild meets the tamed." —Max Watman, The Wall Street Journal

"A masterpiece . . . Howsare’s hands-on approach keeps her storytelling vivid and personal." —Michael Sims, The Washington Post

"Fascinating . . . A splendid document of intellectual and emotional growth . . . A measure of Howsare’s power as a guide is how it clarified my feelings about deer. That’s not because Howsare simplifies anything. She has no ultimate program for how to regain some elusive 'balance' between our two species. She merely asks that we continue to learn from each other." —Lorraine Berry, Los Angeles Times

"Howsare approaches the topic with a journalist’s open mind and a poet’s open heart; she is both. It is an absolute delight. There’s not a page on which the reader will not learn something . . . Yet the book is more than a cabinet of delights. Howsare engages thoughtfully with big ideas, from classical art and old myths of deer and deer-gods to the long, intertwined history of human beings and deer in North America, from pre-Columbian Indigenous folkways that shaped and affected deer population to the near-extinction that occurred after white settlers arrived." —Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe

"A compelling and thorough account of our relationship to the planet’s most ubiquitous ruminant . . . Erika Howsare made me respect deer and the way their history intertwines with our own." —Adriana E. Ramírez, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"The Age of Deer blends Howsare’s personal story with literary analysis and in-depth reportage . . . It is this tension between kinship and stewardship that shapes Howsare’s book, a conflict that produces a third way that collapses the traditional hierarchy. What if deer have something to teach us, not just to give us in the forms of their beauty and their bodies?" —Annie Berke, Washington City Paper

"Those interested in nature writing, or at least how humans connect to the world around them, will enjoy The Age of Deer." —Milan Polk, Men's Health

"In this profound and courageous walkabout of a book, she traipses into a dense thicket of social and economic history, myth and imagination, culture and ecology . . . [An] exceptional investigation . . . Howsare demonstrates an extraordinary ability to hold in sustained conversation the human and wild. With deliberate, approachable framing, she asks again and again the question we confront restlessly in these troubled Anthropocene days: How can we return to an Earth we’ve so wounded? In her grounded, considerate manner, Howsare holds us as subject as much as the deer that carry the title, observing both with a tremendous depth of generosity, a feat nearly as impossible as putting a hand on a wild doe." —Jason Allen Ashlock, Worth Magazine

"The book showcases Howsare’s keen journalistic skills as well as her subtle but sharp sense of humor and thoughtful way with words. Filled with graceful reverence and appreciation for the world of deer—as well as the work of those whose lives are lived in close proximity to it." —Sarah Lawson, C-VILLE Weekly

"[Howsare] asks hard questions about how human development and ways of thinking about nature often determine whether deer live or die, and how they do both . . . More than symbol, the deer is also depicted as our neighbor, our kin, the object of 'a sacred bond.'” —Amy Brady, Literary Hub

"A thorough, eye-opening invitation to ponder our own relationships with the natural world, practically and reverently." —Becky Libourel Diamond, BookPage

"A poignant meditation on humanity’s relationship with deer . . . [Howsare's] lyrical musings cast her subject in a new light . . . Readers will be enthralled." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A fascinating exploration of deer . . . Outstanding natural history writing." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Howsare acknowledges the deep, often mysterious connection humans feel with this large, beautiful mammal, citing the cultural, economic, and environmental impact the species has had throughout history. A nature writer with a poet’s eye and a scholar’s acuity." —Booklist

"Extraordinary and absorbing, The Age of Deer proves John Muir’s notion that when we pick out one thing in the universe we find it hitched to everything else. Howsare understands that we live in an age of numbness when ‘few of us are willing to really feel,’ and suggests, through the lives of deer and her experience with them, an elemental antidote.” —David Gessner, author of Return of the Osprey and All the Wild That Remains

“By paying close attention to an animal often seen but rarely observed, Howsare reveals that deer are far more mysterious and complicated—and far more deeply embedded in our lives and collective histories—than they may seem. The Age of Deer is a wonderfully perceptive, absorbing, and rewarding exploration of life in all its interconnected forms.” — Michelle Nijhuis, author of Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction

"Erika Howsare has written a fascinating and brilliantly researched book on deer. She has an ear for the conundrums and contradictions of our entanglements with these creatures, who increasingly occupy a middle ground between wild and domestic, survivors of our species’ worst predations. This is also a book about nature, culture, and our nationhood—an interrogation of the American project as that story continues to unfold across our deer-happy landscape." —Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of A Woven World

“A warm, engaging, and thoughtful look at what matters to deer and what they mean to us. Howsare is fascinated by the paradoxical status of an animal we all think we know: Not tame, but not quite wild either; fetishized by some, resented by others; all too common, and yet impossible to ignore. I highly recommend it!” —Nate Blakslee, author of American Wolf

"In her lyrical and revelatory The Age of Deer, Erika Howsare crafts the definitive account of humanity’s longstanding dependence on the lovely creatures, their prominent place in myth and legend, and our modern failures to live peaceably alongside them. A cautionary (but often beautiful) tale of good intentions gone awry." —Earl Swift, author of Across the Airless Wilds: The Lunar Rover and the Triumph of the Final Moon Landings

"The Age of Deer joins a growing canon of fresh treatments of wild creatures that are anciently enmeshed in the human story. And as Howsare reminds us in her warm, relaxed style, we will always have such a relationship with deer. The next one you see is going to intrigue you in a whole new way." —Dan Flores, New York Times bestselling author of Coyote America and Wild New World
Product Details
ISBN: 9781646222506
ISBN-10: 1646222504
Publisher: Catapult
Publication Date: January 7th, 2025
Pages: 368
Language: English