Geralyn Gendreau, says:
Childrearing icon Jean Leidloff was my dear friend and mentor for nearly two decades. The Continuum Concept (TCC) had such a profound impact on me when I read it in 1996 that I devoted my life to advancing the Concept.
Before she died in 2011, Jean asked me to write her biography. Over the next few weeks, I sat at her deathbed and recorded her life story on my iPhone.
Jungle Jean captures the essence of the natural parenting movement that was inspired by TCC , and goes beyond childrearing to awaken the primal, cooperative wisdom that lives inside us all.”
Whereas we feel lucky when our pursuit of happiness pays off, these tribal people lived in a state of blessed good cheer, a seventh heaven that was anything but savage.
Our survival hinges on what they knew, but we have forgotten:
- Joy is our natural state of being.
- Self-determination is our birthright.
- Cooperation is the key to our success as a species.
Jungle Jean is the timely and captivating biography of Jean Liedloff, an original thinker and cultural rebel whose insights into human nature have impacted millions of people around the world.
It was 1951. Few people had even heard of a rainforest much less visited one when twenty-year old Jean left Paris and traveled to Venezuela with two Italians on a diamond hunting expedition. She and her companions canoed up the Cavari River into the most primitive regions of the jungle where they encountered the “Stone Age” Sanema and Yequana tribes. On a second expedition, Jean lost all interest in diamonds. She had discovered a different kind of treasure: the natural harmony among the indigenous people of the Amazon. By then an experienced explorer and beloved “doctor” to the natives, she led three more expeditions herself, spending the better part of three years among these simple and yet highly intelligent people.
Aside from the obvious differences in our way of life and that of the Yequana, Jean noticed that these “primitives” totally trusted human nature. They expected the inbuilt, instinctive intelligence of our kind to work perfectly and it did, exquisitely so. Infants never cried, babies displayed none of the fussiness of their Western counterparts, the terrible twos did not exist. Parents were never seen power-struggling with toddler-tyrants, teens did not rebel, and every child grew up confident and competent. Children always cooperated, eager to learn what their tribe expected of them. Youngsters shared in everyday tasks—from cooking to building a new hut— without the least bit of prompting. These observations percolated through Jean’s awareness until she extrapolated and articulated previously unidentified principles of optimal childrearing. Really quite obvious once revealed, these simple principles, when heeded, afford members of our species full development of their true nature with none of the neurosis we view as normal.
The biography spans the better part of the 20th century, with scenes from Jean’s childhood in Upper West Side Manhattan; her life as an ingénue modeling for Vogue Paris, hobnobbing with the European upper class; her friendships with George Plimpton and New York City’s literati in the early ’60s; her meeting with Margaret Meade, who summoned her to Washington; her appearance on Johnny Carson with Clovis, her pet anteater, in her lap; her years practicing psychotherapy in London; and her decades-long career as a childrearing expert.
For 30-plus years, Jean consulted with parents around the world. She had not anticipated becoming a childcare expert, but when parents came to her with their concerns, she always tried to help. Often, in response to her readers’ inquiries, she could offer no precise example or solution from tribal ways. So she did her best to extrapolate principles of human nature itself from her observations of the native people. She would then make “educated guesses” about what was likely to work in the modern world, suggest a certain approach, and ask the parents to report the results. When it worked (and it usually did), the method could then be offered to other parents with similar questions. Thus did her consultation practice help her distill the principles of Continuum parenting.
Jungle Jean contains a treasure trove of these principles, as well as real-life examples of their application to common problems that beguile frustrated parents in the modern world. Most of this material has never been published.
Jungle Jean is a must-read for anyone interested in applying indigenous parenting wisdom to bring up well-adjusted, cooperative children. If you were wounded in childhood and want to make sure you never wound your own children, this book will show you what you need to know.
Told through a compelling narrative and revealing dialogues with her confidante and biographer, the reader walks hand in hand with Jean through her personal struggles and, in so doing, begins to understand how to transcend their own.
The book is also the intimate record of a relationship between two women who taught each other, fought each other, and ultimately found great respect and love for one another.
This is the true saga of Jungle Jean: her brilliance, her triumphs, her private memories and pains, her rocky relationships, her inquiry into the nettlesome habit that kept her from having a sense of family, and the iron will that led her to welcome death on her own terms.
Jean’s legacy lives on in the lives of many families. The principles of intuitive parenting she witnessed in the Amazon rainforest and wrote about in The Continuum Concept are valued worldwide. The veracity of those principles is supported by decades of experience with Attachment Parenting, and now backed by modern science. In Jungle Jean her legacy continues. This riveting read gives parents tools to raise more competent and confident children, and to follow their “mommy brain.”
A splendid book and magnificent read! The mythic life of Jean Liedloff inspires wonder, astonishment and inspiration as to what a great original like Jean can do. With enormous courage and genius, she told the world about the nature of a people who are uncorrupted by Modern society. Her renowned account of the Yeqana people of the rainforest and their loving child rearing practices, is a precious gift that primes our moral compass while restoring our capacity to dream and create the higher dream.
Jungle Jean is the life story of a remarkable woman, a remarkable Amazonian tribe, and a remarkable friendship. Written with deep insight, humor, and love, it weaves together these strands with a way of treating children we can reclaim to give them the attention, caring, and respect we all crave. A truly compelling book!
This is an important life-changing book, a juicy transformative biography of a pioneer and adventurer told by a fearless friend who reveals the shared wounds of the modern-day human condition. You may come for the storytelling, but you’ll leave with compassionate understanding for yourself and others. Highly recommended.