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Chasing Tarzan

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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.

325 pages, Paperback

Published July 18, 2022

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About the author

Catherine Forster

3 books31 followers
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.

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Displaying 1 - 19 of 19 reviews
Profile Image for Sheila.
1,161 reviews35 followers
October 1, 2022
I've never read a book by this author before but I can tell you this won't be the last. This is a captivating story of author Catherine Forster's life. She really knows how to tell a story well. At times I forgot I was reading about someone's true life story and it felt like a novel. How could this all happen to this poor little girl? The bullying she endured from her brother and a boy at school really got to me. She was teased about her weight and boy could I relate to much of this. A lot was going on at Catherine's house as her mom seemed to be having a baby every other year. The author was fulfilling the role of the older sister's life of helping take care of the house and babysitting her siblings. (There were eight children altogether.)

Her journey in life takes her to places and people she probably thought she'd never meet as she became a foreign exchange student. I especially loved this part of the book when she finally found herself with the help of her "Mum" at her new house for a year. The end is very fulfilling as a reader as you've been through every heartache and growing pain that the author went through. It's so impressive to read the Bio and see everything she went on to do in her life. What an amazing woman and an amazing book.
Profile Image for LAWonder10.
953 reviews737 followers
October 30, 2022
Chasing Tarzan is a very well-written Memoir by a very talented and remarkable woman. It is a very poignant tale and never boring. It is heartbreaking at times. Through her writing, the reader can feel the desperation she felt with bullying and being called upon to do so much at such a young age.

Her salvation came with an opportunity to be an exchange student. In preparation, she forced herself to evolve at school in order to fulfill the requirements for becoming an exchange student. Eventually, the day came and she was accepted to be an exchange student in New Zealand. There she discovered a person with insight and a family that actually enabled her to see herself and the world differently.

The story ends with her readjusting to life back in the States with her original family.

This is a story of so many topics, from a child’s feelings of insecurity to devastating, overwhelming anxiety. Much of the first part addresses bullying and faulty parenting.

She complemented her story with sketches she created herself. She is a renowned artist, in addition to her many other talents.

Her verbal descriptions of the various people in her life and of events were very thorough and easily visualized.

I offer a Five Stars rating for this book.

*This book was gifted me with no pressure for a positive review. This is my honest review.
10 reviews
October 13, 2022
From page one, I knew this will become one of my favourite books. I relate to this book so much. It'll probably be that book I will keep coming to. A book about scars, surviving and trying to find yourself. It shows that one person can change your life completely. I recommend this book to everyone!
32 reviews
January 29, 2023
Chasing Tarzan is an enjoyable and easy to read autobiography, detailing a young girl's growth and shifting identity from childhood until her late teens. Catherine is the second child and oldest daughter in a large, frequently moving family, and from an early age assumes much of the responsibility of looking after her younger siblings. A somewhat pudgy child, she is frequently bullied at school and develops deep insecurities about her weight and appearance. As she enters adolescence, she finds satisfaction in academic achievements, going from being a relatively average student to a one of the top students in her class. Her ambition crystallizes when she first learns about the possibility of becoming a foreign exchange student, ultimately landing her a placement in New Zealand. This, she thinks, will let her escape being the "nobody" she fears she is becoming.

Catherine bonds with her host family, whose dynamic is very different than the one that she grew up with. While she struggles to adjust to the foreign educational system, and has a few mis-steps, she ultimately relishes her experience and matures greatly as a result of it. Returning home, she contemplates her next steps in life, her love for her two, very different families, and the greater awareness of her own character that she has achieved. The title, for those who are curious, refers to Catherine's fondness for Tarzan matinees during childhood.

Overall, I found this to be an engaging memoir. Like virtually all instances I have encountered of an adult writing about childhood, the writer doesn't quite succeed in making me suspend disbelief on this account--her description of her thoughts as a child still sound filtered through an adult perspective, but I have come to accept this as an unavoidable artifact of the genre. I also simply do not understand why the author feels it necessary to include the occasional illustration. Still, I would recommend this one. I appreciate the frank descriptions of the writer's early life, which are refreshingly honest, relatable, and often funny.
Profile Image for Misty Travieso.
23 reviews
February 1, 2023
This autobiography was very easy to follow and read. It is all about a girl growing up and how she navigates becoming a teenager. Catherine is her name and she is the oldest daughter in her family. Her family moves a lot and this takes a toll on her. She gets bullied a lot at school because she is a little chubby and doesn't really fit in with the rest of the kids. We learn more about her as she grows into her teenage years. She loves going to school because she loves the educational process. She thrives in school and has become the top student in her class too.

Of course, she gets some opportunities because of her brilliance in school. She has the chance to go to New Zealand to study abroad. She decides that because she is seen as a "nobody" at her school, perhaps this will be a great way for her to be someone else and in a new place. Catherine falls in love with New Zealand. She becomes incredibly close to her host family. She discovers that they are much different from her own family and this helps her to better understand the differences in life and family.

This book really does take a deep look at how we are raised versus being with a family so much different than your own. Catherine learned a lot while she was in New Zealand and feels grateful for having the opportunity to learn there. After reading this memoir, I thought a lot about my own family as well. Being around different families does really put things into perspective for us all.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to dive into an autobiography. I was very moved by this book and it really puts things into perspective for the reader. The book is very interesting, moves pretty quickly, and you find out why she chose the title. I won’t give that part away, but it’s very interesting indeed. I generally don’t read this kind of book, but I liked this one and it definitely has changed my mind about this genre.
36 reviews1 follower
February 4, 2023
CHASING TARZAN depicts the plight of Catherine Forster who endures childhood trauma and narrates the magical journey of self-actualization.Catherine Foster is the second born in a family of eight siblings. She is confronted with bullying and overwhelming responsibilities during her teenage years in the 1960s. At school she faces relentless abuse based on her weight and turns to fantasy as an escape route from her predicaments. She idolizes Tarzan as her savior who can redeem her from the predicaments. It also turns out that Tarzan is her favorite action movie hero. Back at home things are thick; she is overwhelmed with responsibilities such as taking care of her younger sisters and house chores. Neither the parents nor the teachers come to her rescue. The burden becomes heavy to bear and she becomes emotionally unable to withstand the pressure. The only option left is escaping before things escalate to a worst-case scenario. A high school exchange program in New Zealand comes to her aid as it is there where she dreams again to become a different person. While she perceives that no one knows her past, her host mother, Kiwi discerns her true identity and helps her fight her battles and rise above the fears.
Reading the book is more than an overcoming the odds story but invites readers into a more compelling story with a fusion of fantasy that shifts one’s attention from the reality. Forster captures the details vividly as she takes us through her amazing journey. For a moment the introduction feels like a travelogue thanks to entertaining vocabulary and description of the Maori culture. Catherine has also used drawing illustrations that help the reader grasp the commentary as they flip the pages. It is an interesting read one that captures the details of self-growth and discovery of a once naïve girl but eventually overcomes.
27 reviews1 follower
February 11, 2023
First of all, my rating is based solely on the resilience and determination of the author, Catherine, as she navigates through the challenges in her life. Despite being pushed to take on adult responsibilities at a young age of 6, Catherine never lost hope for a better future. Her determination to change the trajectory of her life is truly inspiring, and I have nothing but admiration for her strength.

The book, Chasing Tarzan, details Catherine's journey as a young girl who is constantly on the move with her family, finally settling in a place that only adds to the challenges she faces. Struggling with bullying and belittlement both at school and at home, Catherine felt like she was losing control of her life and the person she wanted to be.

However, Catherine makes the brave decision to become an exchange student in New Zealand. This experience and the new people in her life changed her perspective for the better, providing her with a new outlook on the world and a newfound sense of hope, self-discovery and forgiveness.

Overall, Chasing Tarzan is a testament to the power of resilience and the damaging effects of bullying. This book is a must-read for anyone who has ever struggled with self-doubt, bullying, or a lack of support.

Note: I wasn’t a fan of the Tarzan illustrations and lengthy descriptions, but I understand that helped the author to find a way around the things in her life well out of her control.
Profile Image for Anthony.
Author 30 books132 followers
October 26, 2022
The Review

This was both a heartbreaking and inspiring read all at once. The author’s story truly held an emotional depth that so many readers are going to be able to relate to, and the authenticity for which the author writes captures the intensity of the author's experiences growing up that led to her behavior and struggles to go into the exchange program.

The imagery and tone the author struck early on in the book were so passionate and heartfelt and highlighted the anxiety and hardships that the author endured early in life. The themes were the heart of this narrative, as the exploration of the impact bullies has on a child, the cost of trauma on our outlook on life, and the need for changes in our lives to thrive and grow all played a pivotal role in the author's story.

The Verdict

A moving and captivating coming-of-age meets memoir narrative, author Catherine Forster’s “Chasing Tarzan” is a must-read book filled with emotional storytelling, thoughtful attention to themes, and an honesty that cannot be replicated. The relatability that this story has will compel readers to dive into the story, while the travel and foreign exchange program aspect of the book will have readers invested as the author’s journey continues.
39 reviews1 follower
February 11, 2023
I particularly liked the build-up to the climax of the story. It brings to the surface several emotions battling each other in an authentic way without any exaggeration. People who have been through similar experiences will find the story highly relatable and believable.

There is a great amount of detail that has gone into describing food and clothes. However, the same level of detail is noticably missing when other aspects of the environment are described. Also, some of the vocabulary might come across as archaic, although explanations are given for certain slang terms.

The plot does a good job of highlighting how post-traumatic stress disorder can have lingering side-effects for a long time even though people around the victim might feel that it is time to "move on". Repeated mentions of past experiences bring in the necessary amount of reinforcement that is needed to make the reader realize how much of an impact those experiences create.

The title of the work doesn't sound very relevant as the story progresses ahead in the later chapters. Also, the book has some occasional illustrations, which although do give life to the words expressed and also lend an air of authenticity, are not strictly necessary to visualize what is going on.
Profile Image for Tima.
31 reviews1 follower
April 13, 2023
This memoir is really captivating and inspiring, Catherine Forster's lived through experience and the passages of life are something that some of us can relate to. The thing is that even though all fingers belong to the same hand yet they are never equal and this is how she grew up in a family. It is how life goes and Catherine in her childhood experiences it and in the end, it is separation that leads to her individual freedom.

A tough childhood with 7 siblings, happy and bitter memories are always around the corner and what really matters is which memory leaves a lasting impression. How traumatic it is to be bullied in childhood and despite the struggle, she had to bear the torments for life.

It leads to many consequences of what Catherine went through in her early age, but at the same time, it tells how she handled it with self realisation, grew herself to be mature and dealt with the obstacles of life with a bold attitude.

This is a life lesson for all of us, we go through it and don't speak it or deal with it so casually. Stories are written, that is fact but only some writers can do it with an artistic sort of influence and the authenticity that allows the reader to emotionally connect and I feel that Catherine Forster has really connected me with her story.
Profile Image for Kristine L..
368 reviews25 followers
October 17, 2022
Chasing Tarzan is an intricate and gripping memoir about one girl’s troubled childhood and bullying, both verbal and physical, and how her experience as a foreign exchange student in New Zealand causes her to rethink who she is.

This book has much to offer: Honesty and authenticity. Angst and anxiety. Disappointment and heartbreak. Tears and triumph. Love, laughter, and family. An in-depth look at the effects of bullying. All wrapped in an articulate and tightly written narrative that’s as bright as a spring sunrise after a winter freeze.

Solid and sturdy, this highly engaging coming-of-age tale is hard to put down. It’s tough, tender, and effervescent, and features an impressive command of the language plus careful attention to detail. 

Chasing Tarzan pulls no punches. It includes reportage of “acerbic drivel," “predatory insults,” and the like. This is balanced with honest introspection and personal reflection amid vibrant settings, lively descriptions, and warm remembrances. Equal parts guts and grace, Chasing Tarzan opens a window into the heart and soul of a bullying survivor, offering a hand up and out of the jungle.
Profile Image for Jamie.
202 reviews2 followers
November 20, 2022
I was sent this book in exchange for an honest review. I really loved it. I found Catherine’s telling of her life from a young child to the end of high school really engaging and elements of it to be very relatable. I didn’t grow up in a large family nor did I feel bullied for years, but I think anyone can relate to feeling forgotten, taken for granted, like your every action is up for scrutiny. I will say I think the blurb is a little misleading because it makes it sound like Catherine became this mean and abusive person due to the bullying she endured and while she did do a few less than nice things it didn’t take her long to recognize her bad behavior and she knew she didn’t want to be like that. It was a great read!
35 reviews6 followers
February 2, 2023
I did not want to put this book down!
The storytelling is captivating and emotional right from the beginning. At times I wanted to cry for the author. Her story is laid right out, open and honest.
Some of the topics may be sensitive to some people, I know I struggled a bit at first because it was very relatable. But I think this just testifies to the great storytelling.
You definitely don't wanna miss out on this book if you love biographies. I was totally sucked into the world, as if I were living it myself. The way emotions are described or certain scenes were told completely brought this story to life. I have an inner perception of myself and personally this book was, in a way, a comfort knowing I'm alone in some of those feelings.
Definitely give this one a read!
17 reviews
April 21, 2023
I have so often found memoirs to be a little introspective but this one is not. The author's writing style opens the door to her challenging childhood and to an inspiring story of how she overcame the issues that she faced prior to a life-changing move to New Zealand. The author's writing is honest, raw and open. She doesn't invite the reader's pity but the story that she lays out is very relatable (and may challenge those who struggle with these issues in their own lives). At times I found the style a little old fashioned, and some of the descriptions a bit long-winded, but it is in my view worth pushing through to read this one.
Profile Image for Liliyana Shadowlyn.
2,481 reviews76 followers
November 3, 2022
This was such a compelling memoir. There were so many moments that just absolutely tore up my heart and made it ache. Forster does an amazing job of bringing scenes from her childhood to life, and evoking strong emotions in the reader. Watching her as she grows, changes, learns, and goes through various phases kept me turning pages and reluctant to put the book down. There were a few things I could absolutely relate to - especially the bullying and escaping into fantasy to cope. If you're looking for an emotional read that will spark a bit of hope in you, then you've found your next read.
Profile Image for Misty Knapp.
45 reviews1 follower
April 16, 2023
I really enjoyed reading this! I was cheering Catherine on as we're introduced to Catherine, the second child in a large family, but the first daughter. She is given the responsibility to watch the younger children a lot, as they move around frequently. As an older child, she is bullied by her older brother and a classmate at school because of her weight. Catherine uses her imagination (her with Tarzan) in order to survive the bullying and taunting; in addition, to using her imagination, she focuses on becoming the best student in her class.
September 19, 2022
I found Chasing Tarzan a remarkable story about resilience and bravery. Catherine’s journey captivated me from the first page until the last and left me wanting a sequel or more chapters.
Being bullied can leave life long scars, I hope this book reaches kids and adults everywhere. It’s funny and sad and loving and honest. Such a great read.
1 review
September 30, 2022
This is an amazing book. How is Catherine going to grow up into a gifted adult? The rich detail of recall makes you wonder if this is indeed autobiographic; or is it fiction? Whatever, you get drawn in and can’t put the book down. A great read for parents and daughters.
Profile Image for Katherine Hayward Pérez .
1,155 reviews65 followers
November 26, 2022
TRIGGER WARNING: bullying, weight issues

I seem to have been finding a string of great memoirs recently, and so I was really happy and intrigued when I was contacted via my blog to review this. I was very intrigued by Catherine Forster's author bio, and was so eager to start Chasing Tarzan.

It's a great fast-paced memoir about life, travel and body issues. Catherine Forster is an amazing storyteller and I found this so relaxing to listen to as my iPad screenreader read it out.

There are challenges to deal with: Catherine's dad is moved from place to place and they live in so many places. Catherine has to deal with relentless bullying at school from Hunter and at home from her brother, Steve. I identified with the school bullying although it was not because of my weight.

The writing is flawless and peppered with amazing detail. It's so visual, from what she saw, felt, remembered and experienced, to the cookies she and her siblings made (my mouth was watering and I identified so much with the smell and taste of fresh baking as I loved to eat the dough, too).

I love the journey across 9 states and felt like I was there. The family relationships are really well documented and realistic and the chaos of this large family's daily life is contagious.

The connection with Tarzan is very cleverly woven in to the story.

I was gripped by every word.

Chasing Tarzan is fully deserving of five stars, it's an outstanding memoir with excellent attention to detail.

5 stars
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