Polar bear, polar bear, what should I read? This week’s #FridayReads feature titles about one of Earth’s largest predator.
Polar bears, the nomads of ice and tundra, often inspire wonder, terror, and fascination. Some arctic indigenous populations hunt polar bears as a rite of passage while contemporary artists use the animal as a symbol of climate change. In Ice Bear: The Cultural History of an Arctic Icon, Michael Engelhard explains these notions and more in a comprehensive guide to how polar bears were portrayed throughout history and the significant importance their archetype plays today. Featuring a compilation of stories, Engelhard illustrates the cultural, mythical, historical, and sociological connections between humans and Ursus maritimus. Plus, Ice Bear provides full color photographs, illustrations, and painting reproductions that are well worth flipping through.
Following three generations of polar bears, Yoko Tawada combines fable, allegory, and satire in a stunning story with sociological, political, and environmental undertones. Starting in the Soviet Union, Memoirs of a Polar Bear begins with the family’s matriarch, a polar bear who, after she learns to walk in the circus, enters human society to write a bestselling autobiography. Then, the family saga continues with Tosca, a former ballerina who becomes a circus star in East Germany. And lastly, there’s Knut, Tosca’s estranged son who becomes the poster child for climate change at the Berlin Zoo. Each bear is a celebrity in his or her own way, and Tawada’s anthropomorphic tale is both offbeat and enchanting.