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Go and Come Back

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  420 ratings  ·  53 reviews
When the two old white ladies come to live in the Peruvian jungle village of Poincushmana, everyone makes a fuss--everyone but Alicia, who is baffled by the reaction of her tribe, the Isabo. But as the days pass, she too is drawn in--because the ladies (who are really in their twenties, and anthropologists) are stingy, stupid, and fun to watch. They don't understand the Is ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published July 1st 2000 by Puffin Books (first published March 15th 1998)
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Average rating 3.57  · 
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 ·  420 ratings  ·  53 reviews

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Feb 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
I'm no expert on YA lit, and I read this ages ago. But what I seem to remember that this book achieved is a level of complexity in its characterization in that the two "old white lady" (in their 20s) anthropologists are not depicted as simply dumb, culturally insensitive, colonizing, and coercive Westerners. Rather, they were depicted as what we'd think of as would-be "good" anthropologists, well-intentioned and striving to be culturally competent and do accurate research and be helpful and unde ...more
Gail Levine
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I wish this book had been available when I was a teenager. I'm sure it would have changed my life, would have widened my perspective, made me better understand myself and my place in the world. ...more
Jan 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Go and Come Back was a great read. Alicia’s perspective of our culture provided some very funny and true insights. I thought it was hysterical when Joanna pulls out floss to clean her teeth. Alicia notes “I couldn’t believe they were using such good, strong string to pull old pieces of food from their mouths.” Alicia and Marco realize this string could be put to much better use, such as fishing line or making bracelets. The villagers are also puzzled by the anthropologists’ definition of work. A ...more
Jenny Brown
Aug 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teens, 20xj-classics
An Isabo teenaged girl named Alicia takes readers into a hidden world deep in the heart of the Amazonian jungle of Peru. There is no Isabo word for “goodbye.” Instead, when two people part, they say “catanhue,” which translates as go and come back—and which gives this novel its title. Alicia is not so sure about the “two old white ladies” from “the New York” who have come to study her tightly knit village. They come with so many possessions and ask for an empty house. “Whoever heard of a house n ...more
Lee Bullitt
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
I didn't really learn anything, except that apparently white me Americans are stingy, and as long as they aren't stingy, they can hang out in a Peruvian jungle with an unknown tribe and cry all the time without being made fun of. ...more
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: set-in-mex-ca-sa
An engaging introduction to village life in the Peruvian jungle. References to sexual partnerships are woven throughout the story, so parents should read the book before recommending it to their kids. The story is told from the point-of-view of a girl who has 'bled three times.' She observes the anthropologists as closely as the anthropologists are viewing them.

Based on the author blurb, Abelove knows her subject: She lived in the Amazon jungle for two years, with people much like those portraye
Jamie Dacyczyn
Jul 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
I read this several times in high school, and recently found it again at Goodwill. It's a short, quick read. Told from the point of view of a girl from an Amazonian tribe that is being visited by two women anthropologists. The two women stay with the tribe for about a year (which apparently the author did herself), and basically baffle the tribe with their ignorance and strange ways.

Lightly amusing, touching, and just generally engaging.
Dec 01, 2010 rated it it was ok
Two white ladies who don't understand that, as anthropologists, they aren't supposed to interfere with the culture they are studying, go and interfere with the culture they are studying.

And yet no one really mentions that.
Oct 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Interesting idea and decent execution. Too heavy handed at times. Not sure who I'd recommend it for, as the language is simple enough for middle grades, but there's pretty frank sex talk that might be inappropriate. ...more
Jun 11, 2014 rated it liked it
To be honest, I was a little bemused about a cultural anthropologist writing satirically against her own profession - cultural anthropologists usually come out of the classroom with many pre-conceived ideas and notions about the people they are "studying". Not only does it set up hierarchical ideas and notions about various communities, but cultural anthropologists DO often have heavy impacts on the communities they are writing about. Because of the racist foundations of anthropology itself, man ...more
Apr 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 5th-8th, high school too
Shelves: award
CIP: Alicia, a young tribeswoman living in a village in the Amazonian jungle of Peru, tells about the two American women anthropologists who arrive to study her people’s way of life.

This quick read chapter book would be great for anyone interested in traveling, studying abroad and learning about other cultures! Easy reading level and enjoyable storyline put it at a 5th-8th grade read, but I think up through high school would enjoy it. It won numerous awards including ALA's best read for the coll
Apr 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
This book is about a peruvian girl, who is indigenous.When to old ladies come to her village she is not surprised by them.She thinks they are to skinny and need to get fat.their customs are so different then ours.Being fat is good and shows health, being skinny is ugly because it shows how week you are. Being fat gives you a greater possibility to marry someone of status.Then the old ladies decide to stay and learn about their culture.Everything these women do is strange to her.They call work, s ...more
Jul 26, 2009 rated it liked it
Borrowed this from Emily, with Carie's inscription in the front that reads: "This was the book Gail Carson Levine recommended. You can read it first. Love, Carie" (sorry, Carie, I think I read it first... probably it goes back to emily now or soon will find its way back to you!)

What's neat about this is that Abelove has a doctorate in cultural anthropology, so it has this nice undercurrent that explores the ethical and cultural dilemmas of anthropology, as well as how differences are constructed
May 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
After living two years in a Peruvian village "with people much like those portrayed in this book," with another anthropologist, Margarita, Joan Abelove wrote this book from the perspective of an adolescent village girl, Alicia. There is a compelling immediacy inherent in this way of presenting of an anthropological project. The knowledge that the narrator takes for granted is the culture of the village, and it is the anthropologists' culture that is portrayed as often incomprehensible. Although ...more
Oct 13, 2018 rated it liked it
If a reader wants to peek into the lives of a world they do not know, like a village in the Peruvian jungle, this book fits the bill. Told from the perspective of a young girl from the village, Alicia recounts the visit to her village by two female anthropologists. Worlds, customs, and beliefs that are vastly different and confusing for all involved unfold as the "old ladies" learn to adapt to the village as they study it. It was not what I expected and left me feeling a little flat. That being ...more
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you work or interact with immigrants, please read this amusing little book. We have many stories - of varying quality - available about the trials of immigrants moving to western cultures, but I haven't come across many that successfully point out just how ridiculous we can seem when westerners go abroad. It isn't written as a "lesson," but you'll be gently reminded just the same. ...more
Told from the perspective of a young indigenous woman observing the American anthropologists who come to study her village, this book does a nice job of revealing cultural difference without judgement. The story is compelling, too!

Lexile: 620
-This book takes place in Peru and is one of the books representing South America for my list "Seven Continents of Books 2021"-

This was suggested to me by a fellow Goodreads member when I asked for recommendations : )

This was a quick read, definitely thought-provoking. On the one hand, while the fact that it's told from the point of view of an indigenous person being observed by anthropologists is not something you see all the time, and it makes the reading experience more insightful in some way
Aug 05, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
One day two old white ladies from NY show up in Alicia's village in the Amazon jungle. They are there to study the villagers' way of life: their agriculture and babies. Alicia and the villagers think these ladies are selfish, stupid, rude and funny, but after Alicia saves and adopts a baby girl whose father doesn't want her and threatens to kill her, she begins to get to know the American ladies a bit better. This book illustrates the unconscious biases that enter into our judgements about other ...more
Jan 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: ya-lit
I felt a bit like I was reading a report on culture. If that's the purpose of the novel, it's okay. It just wasn't a very exciting story for me, and it took a little while to get into. It definitely makes me more curious about the native people in South America, but I'm not sure this novel was the way to portray that information.

Alicia's character was pretty well portrayed because she was the narrator. I enjoyed hearing about her mother, even to the point of wanting to meet her. I am very curiou
Dec 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: multicultural, ya-lit
Go and Come Back, despite what it may seem on the surface, is ultimately the story of two American anthropologists and their experience with an indigenous tribe in Peru. Yes, the story is narrated by Alicia, a fourteen year-old native of the tribe. Yes, often the American perspective is presented as "wrong" or "backward". But the narrative only begins when the Americans enter the scene, and it ends when they leave. Aspects of native culture are explained and explored only in context with America ...more
Oct 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
so i finished this book yesterday and I cried near the end of the book....It was sad how Cami died and it also got to me how hard she tried to keep Cami alive and all the fun times they went through.....but in all the cook was about a native girl from a village called Ibo....Their are two white old ladies, 'Johanna and Margarita', and they travel to their little native group. They end up learning alot form these people and lets just say that things didn't really go as planed when they first got ...more
Sep 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: young-adult
This book was written at one of the lowest reading levels acceptable for a young adult book. This made it a very quick read, but to me, the only worthwhile thing in this book was the view into the culture of the natives. I can't even decide if this was a good thing, since none of the characters were likable, and though I learned a lot about this village in South America, I did NOT understand it. There was little explanation of their motives, personal feelings, etc. Very on-the-surface in a weird ...more
Jan 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teenbooks
This was a fascinating young adult novel about another culture--the Peruvian Isabo tribe. It is narrated by a young teenage girl who is a member of the Isabo tribe. Her village is visited one day by two white women anthropologists who have come to study the culture of the Isabos. The book has wonderful stories about the collision between Isabo culture and Western culture. It is an eye-opener to realize how much our culture informs our worldview and how arrogant it is to assume that we (Westerner ...more
Sep 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a terrific cultural anthropology book for young readers, but once again I think my daughter's 4th grade teacher is a bit overambitious about her level of understanding. I believe this will be more appropriate for her in a couple of years. The biggest challenge for her would be trying to read the language of the Peruvian villagers. Trying to figure out the pronunciation while remaining engaged with the story and characters would be tough at her reading level. I'll definitely keep this one ...more
Vera Chen
This is a very interesting book. It tells of a teenage girl who has already been married off but does not live with her husband. She meets 2 white women who have come to their village to learn their life and study it. As she teaches these women their way of life she also learns from them. I like how the author has shown the change and understanding that occurs in both peoples and they learn about the others culture.

Sex - mentioned throughout the whole book.
Alcohol - drinking is part of their li
Jun 14, 2009 rated it liked it
Young Adult book I picked up at a thrift store for 20 cents, an easy and engaging read with a true-life plot of anthropologists staying in a Peruvian aboriginal village. Lots of fun and digestible in a couple hours. Well written and full of enthusiasm. Glad I copped this one and would recommend it to teenagers as well as adults interested in the subject matter, quite an enlightening read from an inside perspective.
Jun 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
I like this book for the way it explains a cultural moré that is different from the way of the observer, who is, if I remember correctly, a typical north American. The two cultures differ in their concepts of ownership, sharing, and looking toward the future. All this is a relatively accessible story.
Feb 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure why I grabbed this one off the shelf, I had never noticed it before. No one has ever checked it out, so I did. It took me a while to get into it, but about half-way through I started to enjoy it. I had to look up the song lyrics as I was not familiar with them, also some other terms. I think the books is a bit more high school than middle school, though. ...more
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Joan Abelove is an American writer of young adult novels. She attended Barnard College and has a Ph.D in cultural anthropology from the City University of New York. She spent two years in the jungles of Peru as part of her doctoral research and used the experience as background for her first novel, Go and Come Back (1998). Go and Come Back earned numerous awards and citations, including a "Best Bo ...more

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