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Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  134 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Kith is a passionate examination of what it means to be a child, by Jay Griffiths, the award-winning author of Wild.

While travelling the world in order to write her award-winning book Wild, Jay Griffiths became increasingly aware of the huge differences in how childhood is experienced in various cultures. One central riddle, in particular, captured her imagination: Why are
Hardcover, 419 pages
Published March 7th 2013 by Hamish Hamilton
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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Anna Maria Ballester Bohn
Yet another of these well-meaning non-fiction books that seem ultimately designed to make you feel guilty. The subject of the book is interesting, there are some interesting facts and stories in it, and it's hard to disagree with the main thesis: that children grow up too distant from nature and their own instincts nowadays, therefore many of them are unnecessarily unhappy.

BUT: the author does lay it on rather thick. Pages and pages brabbling about the wilds and inner spirits and the Romantics
Dec 19, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up-on
This is my first review... I usually figure that no one cares about my opinion but this book was BAD enough that I felt morally obligated to say something.

I suppose this will forever be on my "currently reading" list because I don't intend to ever finish it. For me to say I hate a book and actually stop reading almost NEVER happens, but I gave this book enough of a chance and it never redeemed itself.

I am a firm believer in getting kids outside. (Just took my 3-month-old on a nice walk in 18 de
Alicia Z
I couldn't do it. I tried. You know how sometimes candy is so sickeningly sweet? It's like, "Mmm, I love sweet things. I'll have the candy," and then you put it in your mouth and you just feel gross for days and need to run off and brush your teeth because it's just overly sweet and mushy. Yeah, reading this book is like that.

I get it. Kids should be outside and play and explore and we shouldn't put them in little learning boxes and uniforms and expect them to be tiny adults. You can say that i
Richard Reese
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Jay Griffiths soared away on a seven-year pilgrimage to forage for the knowledge that illuminated her book Wild. She spent a lot of time with wild tribes, and with conquered people who still had beautiful memories of wildness and freedom. As she bounced from place to place, both modern and indigenous, she became aware of a glaring difference between wild people and the dominant culture — their children.

This presented her with a perplexing riddle. “Why are so many children in Euro-American cultur
Rachel Brand
Started on December 22nd, abandoned on January 11th.

I read an extract from this book in the Guardian sometime in early 2013 and was immediately intrigued. When I moved to Edinburgh in July I was pleasantly surprised to discover that their library system had a copy of this book, so I put myself on the waiting list sometime in August. Given that the author had recently spoken at the Edinburgh Book Festival, the waiting list was quite long, and it appears that the book even went missing at some poi
May 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
“…the spirit of childhood, its sense of quest; the importance of woodlands for the psyche; the faerie realm of metaphor; the secret world of a child’s soul where the stories of childhood are whistled with the deft and fragile panache of poetry.”

The term Kith, Jay Griffiths informs us, refers to our native country. Our true home; not stone buildings or sprawling urban cities but our landscape. For those of us who live in England, she means our countryside- the rolling hills and patchwork of field
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this book. I imagine it is probably quite polarizing though and it is pretty much a big polemic which I can imagine might rub some people the wrong way, or just be hard to get through if reading things you don't agree with is a chore. And it's easy to disagree with this, Jay Griffiths is at times quite extreme.

I guess I felt it picked up around chapter 3 and in spite of the fact that it sort of made me feel like I would always be some sort of terrible failure as a paren
Dec 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Griffiths sets out to answer the question of why children in western cultures are so often unhappy, and the result is a richly textured, wide-ranging narrative that I think would be compelling to parents, educators, those concerned with the health of society and of our planet, and anyone captured by the magic of childhood. In traversing the landscape of childhood, the author dwells in discussion of the natural world, imagination, metaphor, education, fairy tales, and--my most kindred spirits--th ...more
May 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Perhaps the most profound book I have read in a very long time. It is a big book, heavy, worthy all that kind of stuff but it is so readable, it clicks with you. I've marked quote upon quote and am hopeing all that 'good stuff' stays in the mind for ages. I don't know how you describe a book like this - part philosophy, part education theory, part lit crit, part social commentary, part 'hippie' liberal thought, part childhood memoir but it is fascinating. I'm glad I found it on the library shelv ...more
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Adding to my shelf of personal bibles--guides to help me stay true to myself, my natural goodness, creativity, wonder. In one sense to serve as exemplar to my son. That it is written in stunningly gorgeous prose by a person who possesses an encyclopedic love of books and language only deepens the many pleasures I had in reading this. To read this book as some sort of parenting manual would be a disservice to the book, author, and most importantly, you, dear reader.
Benjamin Vanevery
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm very happy to have read this book.

My quick explanation for the missing star is that the prose is a little wandering at times and left me wondering what the purpose of the section was. There seemed to be an eagerness to cite other works that simply introduced more words to read, but no further takeaways.

On to the good stuff -- at so many points throughout this book I recalled fondly memories of my own childhood or even connected distant memories thereof to subconscious truths about myself o
Wendy Campbell
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
Although I am in total agreement with the author, Jay Griffiths, about the importance of children being allowed to explore their environment on their owns terms, I was continually derailed from her message by her lengthy ranting, sadly. So couldn't finish this book.

I do thank Jay for having the courage to speak up about this important issue, which we as humans need to take far more seriously. This will allow our precious children to grow into adults who are happy to be unplugged from technology
Oct 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very well written book. This book I found while reading one of Robert MacFarlane's books. ...more
Daniel Hernandez
Oct 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Important read for all of us
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful meditation on what's wrong with childhood today. Creates awareness of what's important for children, and everyone else, essentially. ...more
Feb 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Mixed. Some good chapters and definitely lots of important counter-cultural ideas contained within, but I grew frustrated with the overly poetic style and increasingly abstract themes.
May 04, 2013 rated it liked it
really interesting book which explored childhood and how other cultures raise children.

sometimes it's comparative so like one group of people may practise this method of child rearing whereas in the West we do it this way.
it's not saying which way is best. but just exploring how others raise their children and how perhaps in the West it's due to upbringing and social development that there are so many problems.

for example in a lot of cultures or societies, children don't necessarily have one
Richard Kravitz
Jan 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kind of heavy in places and I'm not sure about her writing ALL the time, but mostly it was pretty good. More on historical and esoteric stuff as opposed to railing on-and-on against technology (which is what I tend to do).

I thought it was a good read!~! and if the outdoors or outdoor pursuits have been a big part of your life and you're a believer in "experience" then you'll probably enjoy this book.

I'm a teacher (and an ex-climber) and did notice the obligatory chapter on how regimented and stu
There are many important concepts here, and some beauty and much personal honesty and passion. Mothers and grandmothers should read a few chapters. Language and references to literature are very fun. Downsides - this isn't scientific research but opinion and romanticism. I was thrown off by examples, plucked from the author's experience, presented as truth. Also, as there is much repetition, skimming is required! That said, Griffiths' concept of childhood is provocative, wild, beautiful and some ...more
Sylvia Walker
Well, it's really 2.5 stars, interesting and well-written, and I do agree with the author that children need to experience nature, and to play outside, and shouldn't be beaten to a whimpering pulp by fanatical parents, or otherwise be abused and humiliated, but...I don't romanticize children, or childhood, nor do I think children can do a very good job of raising themselves. I disagree with the author far more than I agree, which did make for a rousing read. On this subject, I would recommend "H ...more
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Only this author could have written this book. Beautifully composed, this insightful cultural critique functions as an essential guide and countercurrent to all the United States neurotic parenting books and ideologies that are now popular exports. This generation of children are undeniably metaphyscially homeless and Griffiths situates childhood back in its country, kith, rooted in place.
Chris Speyer
Dec 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Griffiths poetically makes the case for the need for children in the developed world to reconnect with nature. This is not a scientific study so, if that is what you are looking for, this is not for you. This book is unashamedly subjective.
Esther Dushinsky
I'm not sure what the point of this book is, because I couldn't get through even 1/4 of it. I kept on waiting for that aha moment, where I grasp what this book is about, but it was just a long run on sentence of poetry to me. ...more
Lori Mier
rated it it was amazing
Oct 27, 2020
rated it it was amazing
Jun 07, 2015
rated it it was amazing
Mar 07, 2016
Beth Fawcett
rated it really liked it
Feb 08, 2017
Childhood used to be directly related to nature, and we’ve taken that away from kids. No wonder they (and we) are so unhappy! -> Back to nature. Enclosure is bad, automation is bad, etc. The idea is right on the money, but it’s a bit repetitive and boring for my taste.
rated it liked it
Dec 17, 2019
Anna Kirby
rated it it was amazing
May 15, 2015
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Jay Griffiths was born in Manchester and studied English Literature at Oxford University. She spent a couple of years living in a shed on the outskirts of Epping Forest and has travelled the world, but for many years she has been based in Wales.

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“Every generation of children instinctively nests itself in nature, no matter matter how tiny a scrap of it they can grasp. In a tale of one city child, the poet Audre Lord remembers picking tufts of grass which crept up through the paving stones in New York City and giving them as bouquets to her mother. It is a tale of two necessities. The grass must grow, no matter the concrete suppressing it. The child must find her way to the green, no matter the edifice which would crush it.

"The Maori word for placenta is the same word for land, so at birth the placenta is buried, put back in the mothering earth. A Hindu baby may receive the sun-showing rite surya-darsana when, with conch shells ringing to the skies, the child is introduced to the sun. A newborn child of the Tonga people 'meets' the moon, dipped in the ocean of Kosi Bay in KwaZulu-Natal. Among some of the tribes of India, the qualities of different aspects of nature are invoked to bless the child, so he or she may have the characteristics of earth, sky and wind, of birds and animals, right down to the earthworm. Nothing is unbelonging to the child.

"'My oldest memories have the flavor of earth,' wrote Frederico García Lorca. In the traditions of the Australian deserts, even from its time in the womb, the baby is catscradled in kinship with the world. Born into a sandy hollow, it is cleaned with sand and 'smoked' by fire, and everything -- insects, birds, plants, and animals -- is named to the child, who is told not only what everything is called but also the relationship between the child and each creature. Story and song weave the child into the subtle world of the Dreaming, the nested knowledge of how the child belongs.

"The threads which tie the child to the land include its conception site and the significant places of the Dreaming inherited through its parents. Introduced to creatures and land features as to relations, the child is folded into the land, wrapped into country, and the stories press on the child's mind like the making of felt -- soft and often -- storytelling until the feeling of the story of the country is impressed into the landscape of the child's mind.

"That the juggernaut of ants belongs to a child, belligerently following its own trail. That the twitch of an animal's tail is part of a child's own tale or storyline, once and now again. That on the papery bark of a tree may be written the songline of a child's name. That the prickles of a thornbush may have dynamic relevance to conscience. That a damp hollow by the riverbank is not an occasional place to visit but a permanent part of who you are. This is the beginning of belonging, the beginning of love.

"In the art and myth of Indigenous Australia, the Ancestors seeded the country with its children, so the shimmering, pouring, circling, wheeling, spinning land is lit up with them, cartwheeling into life....

"The human heart's love for nature cannot ultimately be concreted over. Like Audre Lord's tufts of grass, will crack apart paving stones to grasp the sun.
Children know they are made of the same stuff as the grass, as Walt Whitman describes nature creating the child who becomes what he sees:

There was a child went forth every day
And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became...
The early lilacs became part of this child...
And the song of the phoebe-bird...

In Australia, people may talk of the child's conception site as the origin of their selfhood and their picture of themselves. As Whitman wrote of the child becoming aspects of the land, so in Northern Queensland a Kunjen elder describes the conception site as 'the home place for your image.' Land can make someone who they are, giving them fragments of themselves.”
“My brothers and I spent weeks with our grandparents by the sea where we learned so much more than it may have seemed. Not because we saw an actual shipwreck but because we saw the potential for it. Not because we actually found treasure but because we could feel the immanence of treasure at every seashore... We fished for wishes and caught them; we swam to find mermaids and became them; and we dived for pearls and returned with a stick, a bit of litter, a coin or the makings of a joke. Pearls, in other words. We learned about tides and chance, storms and sun, the vicissitudes of what is lost and found, flotsam and jetsam, castaway luck, islands, sea-songs, rings, riddles and pledges. (page 47)” 4 likes
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