Nafanua

Paul Alan Cox, Author W.H. Freeman & Company $23.95 (300p) ISBN 978-0-7167-3116-0
At age 19, Cox (coauthor of Plants, People, and Culture) spent two years in Western Samoa as a Mormon missionary. Twenty years later, Cox returned with his family, this time as a Brigham Young botany professor with a grant from the National Science Foundation to study medicinal plants. He selected a remote coastal village adjoining a lowland rain forest to provide data for his research. Cox's time there was well spent: not only did he make important botanical finds among the medicinal flora used by the natives (one, Prostratin, is being tested for treatment of hepatitis and AIDS), but he also became active in conservation. When logging threatens the habitat of a rare species of fruit bat or ""flying fox,"" Cox succeeds in having it declared an endangered species. When the villagers have to choose between education for their children and losing more rain forest, Cox mounts an international campaign to save the forest as well as to provide funds for the school. None of this comes off here as mere do-goodism, as Cox becomes intensely involved with the people he lives among, and struggles to come to grips with the responsibilities of life on the island. His portrait of village life candidly discusses the role of missionaries and their effect on Samoan culture, and his recounting of local lore, such as that of the mysterious and deadly tanifa, a sea creature, is gripping. When a devastating hurricane destroys the village near the end of his stay, Cox soberly comprehends the depth of his commitment to the people and the land. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 238 pages - 978-0-7167-3563-2
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