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An Affair with Africa: Expeditions And Adventures Across A Continent
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An Affair with Africa: Expeditions And Adventures Across A Continent

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  117 ratings  ·  22 reviews
In June 1960, Alzada Kistner and her husband, David, a promising entomologist, left their 18-month-old daughter in the care of relatives and began what was to be a four-month scientific expedition in the Belgian Congo. Three weeks after their arrival, the country was gripped by a violent revolution, trapping the Kistners in its midst. Despite having to face numerous life-t ...more
Hardcover, 262 pages
Published May 1st 1998 by Island Press
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Average rating 3.44  · 
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Nov 01, 2010 rated it liked it
This is a book written by a woman whose husband is an entomologist and the adventures they have in Africa collecting specimens. I don't think this is such a great read by itself, but having just finished Poisonwood Bible, this book made a wonderful contrast read since they are both written during the same time period. Where Kingsolver gives herself to political moralizing in Poisonwood Bible, Kistner's approach is purely scientific--observe and document. And where Kingsolver bemoans the injustic ...more
Renee M
Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir/journal of the adventures of a family pursuing entomology in Africa over several trips and many years. I loved the blend of science and history, customs, culture, politics, and personal experience. Kistner shared elements that were funny and frightening, joyous and educational.

Just a fascinating read, made especially powerful for me due to the vicarious travel I've enjoyed through friends who have traveled/done relief work in Africa. And the fact that Ive recent
Jan 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was not at all expecting to enjoy this book after realising much to do about collecting beetles. Turns out, it was amazing. This book had me sobbing with grief, filled my eyes with tears of joy, had me laughing like a hyena (yes, that's a joke about the book), tense from holding my breath from how intense it and frightful it was. It was a wonderful read. And by read, I mean it was an audiobook, and it was great to listen to.
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
This book is everything I like in a travelogue; it gives a snapshot of different African countries at a time a change in the political culture.
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This adventure reminded me of portions of my childhood as I traveled with my desert-ecologist parents. I'm biased, but I think there can be no better education for children than travel. My own non-scientific stint in The Gambia, West Africa coincided with the final trip described in this book. It was a marvelous era to experience Africa.
Gretchen Reid
Sep 08, 2017 rated it liked it
It was an insightful and interesting read particularly if you appreciate field biology and insects and the history of Africa. It was an enjoyable read but started to drag and be a bit repetitive the last third thus a three vs four star rating.
Sep 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're interested in scouring the dark continent for ants this book is for you
Neil Lettinga
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
A charming and generally well-written travel tale describing the adventures of a couple of entomologists traipsing across Africa between 1960 and 1973 hunting for myrmecophiles (also known as "ant guests," and termitophiles (termite guests.) These bugs live with and are fed by the ants and termites that are their hosts and are killed as soon as their hosts discover their presence. Since their hosts are blind, they have various stratagems for avoiding being detected and killed. Alzada Carlisle Ki ...more
Beth E
This book was certainly informative about the lives of ants and termites - two things I knew little about and learned several interesting details. I suppose the difficulty is remembering that this took place in the 1960-1970 timeframe, before blatant destruction of lifeforms was more closely regarded. To hear stories of pouring DDT over ant nests and trying to collect specimens prior to the 'whole nest melting', what heartbreaking to hear. And I am a scientist, a biologist, who doesn't allow the ...more
Apr 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone looking for a mix of science, adventure and cultural differences
Loved it! I may be a little bias, but this book has sparked a fire to go back to Africa and giving me ideas about leading a dual life, here and there. This book follows a family around Africa during the 60's and 70's as they study termites and ants, but I promise this is not a lot of boring science involved.

My only qualms with this book, is the family mostly interacted with other Europeans and Americans with very little interaction with the "natives." It is still a wonderful journey through so m
A disappointing (to me at least) memoir of a pair of entomologists' field research in Africa decades ago. The problem with the book is that it isn't personal enough to give a sense of the people, not enough travel to give a sense of the continent and its history (they experienced the Mau Mau rebellion - and made it seem mundane!) not enough science to learn anything about termites and ants. I am not sorry that I listened to it, but wish it had found itself before she sent it off to her publisher ...more
Nov 02, 2014 rated it liked it
This book chronicles the authors life in 1960's and 1970's traveling through Africa with her husband,an entomologist. They hunt , find and catalog thousands of termites and beetles. Wile this is not entirely interesting to me,their experiences are. Traveling in Africa while pregnant,traveling with children and the experiences with wild life,and traveling in a car all over Africa is very fascinating. I enjoyed listening to their experiences, I am not sure I could have read it without losing inter ...more
Karen K - Ohio
Feb 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Kistner writes of the multiple scientific expeditions she and her entomologist husband (and on some trips her young daughters) took to Africa between 1960 and 1973 just as the continent was falling into unrest and political chaos at the end of the colonial era. She describes their research and experiences both in and out of the bush but avoids examining any of the social, political or economical changes swirling around them.
Powder River Rose
Jul 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Truly an affair to remember. Thirty five years of exploration in Africa, from young scientific couple to young scientific family, Mrs Kistner tells the story of her amazing travels through this lovely country during times of upheaval and unrest while discovering new species of beetles and other insects. Excellent narration and enjoyable story.
Aug 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: africa
Very disappointing. The author spent a great deal of time traveling through Africa yet seems to have worn blinders the whole time she was there. She romanticizes colonization and seems oblivious to the history and conditions endured by those who were colonization's victims.

There are some interesting descriptions of the natural environment but not enough to make it a worthwhile read.
Mary Leahy
Jan 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a very interesting book that is written by a lady from Chico, CA. It is about her experiences and adventures with her husband and children while they were doing scientific work in Africa studying ants and other insects.
Jan 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, audio
A map of 1960 to 1973 Africa would have been a helpful companion to this audio book. Most of the countries have changed their names since Alzada Carlisle Kistner was there. As for the reason for her expeditions, who knew there were bugs that live with the ants and mooch off them?
Jan 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Listened to this on my commute. Kept my interest on the drive but I don't know if I would have enjoyed it as much reading it. I found myself irritated with the author at times for taking what seemed unnecessary risks with her own and her kids' safety and lives.
Apr 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Read this several years ago, but remember finding the combination of political history and naturalists/scientists story to be interesting and fairly intriguing. Made me want to find out more about the Belgian Congo
Jenny Gendel
Sep 28, 2014 rated it liked it
It was a fascinating book and actually made a good car travel book, or a doing something else listening to book, but one I would have found hard to physically read. Interesting.
Interesting and good for readers of interesting stuff about Africa.
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