American Wolf (Blakeslee)

American Wolf:  A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West 
Nate Blakeslee, 2017
320 pp.

The enthralling story of the rise and reign of O-Six, the celebrated Yellowstone wolf, and the people who loved or feared her.
Before men ruled the earth, there were wolves. Once abundant in North America, these majestic creatures were hunted to near extinction in the lower 48 states by the 1920s. But in recent decades, conservationists have brought wolves back to the Rockies, igniting a battle over the very soul of the West.

With novelistic detail, Nate Blakeslee tells the gripping story of one of these wolves, O-Six, a charismatic alpha female named for the year of her birth. Uncommonly powerful, with gray fur and faint black ovals around each eye, O-Six is a kind and merciful leader, a fiercely intelligent fighter, and a doting mother.

She is beloved by wolf watchers, particularly renowned naturalist Rick McIntyre, and becomes something of a social media star, with followers around the world.

But as she raises her pups and protects her pack, O-Six is challenged on all fronts: by hunters, who compete with wolves for the elk they both prize; by cattle ranchers who are losing livestock and have the ear of politicians; and by other Yellowstone wolves who are vying for control of the park’s stunningly beautiful Lamar Valley.

These forces collide in American Wolf, a riveting multigenerational saga of hardship and triumph that tells a larger story about the ongoing cultural clash in the West — between those fighting for a vanishing way of life and those committed to restoring one of the country’s most iconic landscapes. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Nate Blakeslee is a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly. His first book, Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town, was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award and won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, the Texas Institute of Letters non-fiction prize, and was named a New York Times Notable Book of 2005. The Washington Post called it one of the most important books about wrongful convictions ever written. He lives in Austin, Texas with his family. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
Most compelling is the story of O-Six, Yellow Stone’s biggest celebrity. Named for the year she was born, she is beautiful and mesmerizing, admired by thousands of fans across the U.S. who have been captivated by her exploits. We also follow a single hunter whose path she crosses.… But this story is larger than a single wolf and a single hunter. American Wolf Is an epic tale of generations of alphas and pups, of competing interests and declining fortunes, human resentments and grudging compromise — all played out against Nature’s eternal beauty. The book is thought-provoking and eye-opening — and a superb read. Highly recommended.  READ MORE …
P.J. Adler - LitLovers

In American Wolf, Blakeslee does a fine job presenting the wolf’s basic biological requirements, from abundant prey source (in Yellowstone, the overpopulation of elk) to secure denning sites. But he also illustrates the far more complicated and ever-dynamic human elements affecting the wolves. The politics of ranchers — some for wolves, others against — and antigovernment zealots, hunting outfitters, Congress, courts and judges, and tourism operators all exert a sculpting pressure on where and how and if the wolf can live.
Rick Bass - New York Times Book Review

American Wolf…explores the clash over Canis lupus, the gray wolf, with a story told through the life of O-Six and the humans who loved her. Author Nate Blakeslee… tells a masterful and elegant tale. Nature enthusiasts or lovers of narrative-nonfiction will enjoy the book
Associated Press

Engaging.… [A] must read for researchers, citizen scientists, and visitors to Yellowstone, where the story of the wolves continues to evolve.

[American Wolf] reads like a novel.… [A] testament to the genius of Blakeslee’s tautly constructed narrative.

Blakeslee takes readers into the snowy [Lamar Valley], and deep into a genuinely human tale told with the energy and verve of a bestselling thriller. A tight, dense narrative, American Wolf races along like a predator on the hunt.
Texas Observer

(Starred review.) Beautiful, detailed.… [American Wolf] centers on the rise, reign, and family life of O-Six, matriarch of the Lamar Canyon pack and so well-known to park visitors that the New York Times gave her an obituary.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.) Utterly compelling.… Blakeslee’s masterly use of fiction writing techniques to ratchet up the tension will hook a wide swath of readers
Library Journal

(Starred review.) The fight…[over] Yellowstone’s wolves is embodied in O-Six’s story, told with great immediacy and empathy in a tale that reads like fiction. This one will grab readers and impel them into the heart of the conflict.

American Wolf is an essential read for anyone interested in a fascinating piece of American history and learning more about an important issue that continues to plague the West. Stephanie Coleman, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO
Indie Next List

In the main, Blakeslee's well-rendered story will be familiar to anyone who has followed the Yellowstone wolves, but those who have not will find this a solid overview of recent events—evenhanded but clearly and rightly on the side of the wolves.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, please use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for American Wolf … then take off on your own:

1. Start, perhaps, by putting the wolf in a historical context. Talk about the wolf's place in American history: the original numbers at the beginning of colonization, the eradication programs, the wolf's near extinction, its listing and de-listing as a protected animal.

2. What have you learned about wolves after reading Blakeslee's book? What do they feed on, how do they survive the harsh landscape and winters, what are the social hierarchies within their packs or between packs? Did anything surprise you about them, their behavior, their food sources?

3. In what way does the wolf reflect this country's cultural/political divide? Talk about the various factions … and lay out their respective points of view regarding the rights of wolves to populate and propagate in the West.

4. What side of the argument do you place yourself on? Does Blakeslee do a good job of giving all sides a say — is he fair? Can you understand the points on the opposing sides, even if you might disagree with them?

5. Follow-up to Question 4: if there's a hero in the book, who would it be?

6. Is there a foreseeable solution to the wolf problem?
7. Ed Bangs, the Fish and Wildlife biologist who had directed the wolf recovery project since 1988, once observed that "What we normally mean by "education" is, I want someone else to know as much as I know so they'll have my values" (131 p.). Is that how you see the idea of educating the pubic — more as a means of rhetorical persuasion than providing information? Or do you believe Bangs's view is bit cynical? If so, then what does educating the public mean? Or what should it mean?

(Questions issued by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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