Welcome to the Unforgotten Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of Unforgotten: The Wild Life of Dian Fossey and Her Relentless Quest to Save Mountain Gorillas by Anita Silvey on June 29th, blogs across the web are featuring original content from Anita, as well as 5 chances to win the complete trilogy: Unforgotten, Untamed, and Undaunted.

Two Lies and One Truth about Dian Fossey

by Anita Silvey

By the time I began Unforgotten, a biography of Dian Fossey, I felt I knew a great deal about her. After all, I had already spent five years researching and writing about Jane Goodall and Biruté Galdikas, the two other Trimates (Ape Ladies) who had been championed and sent into the field by famed anthropologist Louis Leakey. At one point when Dian was back in the United States and teaching at Cornell, the three had even lectured together about the species they knew so well: Jane (chimpanzees), Biruté (orangutans) and Dian (gorillas).

         But at that point, if I had been asked to find the one truth from the list below, I would have made the wrong choice.

  1. Dian successfully researched mountain gorillas in Rwanda, in a challenging terrain, because she has great physical stamina and rarely got ill.
  2. It took months for her to begin her research and get close enough to these huge animals (the males weighed between 400-450 pounds).
  3. She loved designer clothes and jewelry, and when she wasn’t living in primitive conditions, she delighted in dressing up for dinner parties where she held the audience captivated by her stories.

So, if readers have spotted the one true statement, let’s see if you know more than I did before I began working on the book:

  1. Jane Goodall, the daughter of a race car driver, was known for her remarkable stamina and ability to exhaust anyone (staff, photographers) who accompanied her to observe chimpanzees. But Dian had every known aliment while she lived in primitive conditions. She began her trip to Africa with a case of pneumonia. When she visited her sponsors at National Geographic before leaving the United States, they reported back to Louis Leakey that they didn’t know if she could withstand the conditions of living in the wilderness. She suffered a variety of physical problems – broken bones, headaches, fevers, recurring pneumonia, kidney infections. And she lived most of her 18 years as a gorilla researcher far away from medical treatment or a hospital. It was only her love of these animals that kept her going during all these physical challenges.
  2. The elusive orangutans, who travel in tree tops, caused the most trouble for the Trimates. Biruté Galdikas went months before she actually got to see one up close. Then she spotted a young male walking on a forest path near her. But four days after she arrived at her first camp, Dian and her guide Sanwekwe sat with a gorilla family and observed them for three hours.
  3. The one true statement. Dian, raised in a wealthy family, loved fine clothes and dinner parties and holding guests enthralled with her stories. However, while she lived in the wilderness, she often ate Spam and potatoes. Lots of potatoes. She always thought it was fortunate that she actually liked potatoes.

I myself worked hard to tell the truth about Dian Fossey to young readers. I believe they deserve nothing less. I hope they find inspiration in Dian’s sometimes messy life. She sacrificed it because of her complete devotion to the mountain gorillas. As her tombstone says, “No one loved gorillas more.” And that statement is the absolute truth.


Amazon | Bookshop.org | Goodreads

Explore the fascinating life and legacy of groundbreaking primatologist and conservationist Dian Fossey, who made it her life’s mission to study and protect mountain gorillas, in this powerful biography from award-winning author Anita Silvey.

In 1963, young American Dian Fossey spent all her savings and took out a loan to realize her dream–to go to Africa. It soon became her life’s mission to study and protect the few mountain gorillas left on Earth. Fossey had no experience or formal scientific training, but she was smart, passionate, and strong-willed–and she just happened to meet paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey, who helped her pursue her goal of studying animals in the wild. Fossey set up a research camp and threw herself into tracking and observing mountain gorillas. Over the next 18 years, Fossey got closer to gorillas than any human ever had before. As she learned to mimic their behavior and became accepted by them, Fossey’s studies grew into a labor of love and a mission to protect her beloved gorillas from poachers and other threats–no matter what the cost.

Sadly, Fossey was murdered at her camp in 1985, and to this day, her death remains a mystery. But her legacy lives on through the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund: In 1973 Fossey recorded only 275 gorillas living in Volcanoes National Park; there are about twice that many today. Fossey’s story is one of tragedy, but also passion, science, and preservation. As Jane Goodall, once said, “If Dian had not been there, there might be no mountain gorillas in Rwanda today.” Unforgotten is the dramatic conclusion to Silvey’s trilogy of biographies on Leakey’s “Trimates.” With unparalleled storytelling, sidebars, maps, and an award-winning design, Unforgotten will inspire the next generation of budding scientists and conservationists.

Follow Anita: Website | Twitter | Facebook

About the Author: As the author of 100 Best Books for Children, 500 Great Books for Teens, and Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book, ANITA SILVEY has devoted more than 50 years of her career to championing book that turn casual readers into lifelong book lovers. Books in this National Geographic series are Undaunted: The Wild Life of Biruté Mary Galdikas and Her Fearless Quest to Save Orangutans and Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall. Recent books include Let Your Voice Be Heard: The Life and Times of Pete Seeger. Silvey has been a guest on NPR, The Today Show, 60 Minutes, and various radio programs to talk about the best books for young people. In a unique career in the children’s book field, Silvey has divided her time equally between publishing, evaluating children’s books, and writing. Her lifelong conviction that “only the very best of anything can be good enough for the young” forms the cornerstone of her work. Formerly publisher of children’s books for Houghton Mifflin Company and editor in chief of The Horn Book magazine, she currently teaches modern book publishing, Modern Book Publishing and the History of Children’s Book Publishing at Simmons University.


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Blog Tour Schedule:

July 12th — Pragmatic Mom

July 13th — YA Books Central

July 14th — Always in the Middle

July 15th — Mrs. Book Dragon

July 16th — Imagination Soup

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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  1. Completely Full Bookshelf says:

    This sounds like a fascinating read—I don’t believe I know anything about Dian Fossey, so I could learn a lot from this book! I enjoyed reading the author’s guest post. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Denise says:

    I love stories about strong women making a difference. Thanks for letting me know about this trip of books.

  3. Donna says:

    Remarkable women!

  4. Danielle Hammelef says:

    I didn’t realize that Dian had no formal experience of training before she devoted herself to this dangerous work.

  5. Rania R. says:

    Amazing. I learned she followed her dream and went to Africa to pursuit it.

  6. She really was a remarkable woman and such a role model for many. Surprised she had no formal training before working with the apes. I actually guessed the true question — it was so far out there, I figured it was true. Loved the movie about Fossey. Would love to be a winner!

  7. Pingback: UNFORGOTTEN | Always in the Middle…

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