Today we welcome guest-reviewer Laura Yasinitsky who is giving us the skinny on the book, Stories Rabbits Tell.
Book Review: Stories Rabbits Tell by Susan E. Davis and Margo DeMello
Review by Laura Yasinitsky
As a child, I had a rabbit whom I loved to death. Cotton Tail taught me a lot about being a pet parent, possibly even instilling in me the core value I carry to this day – my deep love and respect for animals. Now, as an adult, as I learn more about animal behavior, I realize that there were so many things I did wrong when it came to caring for my beloved bunny. I can only imagine what would have been different if I had had access to the knowledge provided in Stories Rabbits Tell by Susan E. Davis and Margo DeMello (Lantern Books, 2003).
Widely renowned as the definitive work on this charming creature, this valuable resource is not only dense with information, but it’s truly fascinating, evoking the energy and curiosity of a jumping bunny. This monumental piece of nonfiction contains a wealth of information about what still remains one of my favorite animals. Bottom line – Stories Rabbits Tell is a must read for any animal lover.
In part one, “Pests, Pets, and Profits,” Davis and DeMello cover the biological and historical development of the domestic rabbit, and share delightful tales from “owners” of house rabbits. Although a bit dry, the history section is incredibly resource-intensive and ferociously thorough. It is particularly interesting to understand how human interference played such an intricate part in their sociological development. On the other hand, the stories of house rabbits and their interactions with their humans, including funny anecdotes and affecting tales of rescue, bring a lighter note.
This is a nice segue to part two of Stories Rabbits Tell, entitled “Witches, Whores, and Tricksters,” which deftly explores rabbits as symbols and icons, examining the meanings bestowed upon them in different human cultures. Tales of rabbits abound in human history, from widely known ancient fables such as “The Tortoise and the Hare” to modern day characters like Bugs Bunny. Other noteworthy rabbit icons that the book explores include Peter Rabbit, Roger Rabbit, and even the Playboy Bunny. As a society, it turns out that we are much more hare-obsessed than we may have realized. The exploration of the frequent association of rabbits with women, and the substitution of children by rabbits in storybooks, is especially thought provoking.
I found part three, “Hopping Dollars,” to be the most painful section of the book. Focusing on rabbits as revenue, this part includes descriptions of our use of rabbits as fur, meat, and vivisection subjects. The levels and depth of exploitation of these animals touches every human endeavor, from their use as military training subjects, to cosmetics testing victims, to greyhound racing bait, to magician props.
Perhaps not surprising, it seems that humankind just doesn’t know where to stop when it comes to our apathy toward the needs of our furry friends. Stories Rabbits Tell made that point loud and clear. Though not included in the book, rabbits were even recently used as stage props by the Royal Shakespeare Company, which made the incredibly wrong-headed decision to skin fresh-killed rabbits onstage during a production of As You Like It, a decision that was nixed when the production reached New York.
Although sometimes difficult to bear, Stories Rabbits Tell is, nevertheless, always incredibly informative – and almost excruciatingly detailed. It truly burrows deeply into the spellbinding world of rabbits and their place in a human-ruled world. Indeed, it’s long past time a light was shown on this incredibly intriguing earthling. Although rabbits have somehow landed in the blind spot of humanity, they are, in fact, everywhere – on our laps, our plates, our TVs, and in our closets. I finished this book fascinated, informed, and, most excitingly, keen to adopt a homeless rabbit. I have a feeling that Cotton Tail would approve.
For anyone doing any type of research on rabbit history or welfare, Stories Rabbits Tell is an invaluable and necessary resource. For any animal lover, it is a wonderful tool to help educate and expand your understanding of these adorable, and surprisingly deep, critters.
Laura Yasinitsky is a writer, waitress, and animal lover based in New York City. She appeared on Comedy Central’s Open-Mic Fight and writes for US Weekly’s “Fashion Police.” You can read her daily musings on Twitter @LaraYaz and get her opinions on everything else at http://larayaz.blogspot.com. She is a proud vegan and cat mommy.