BOOKS: Voices From The Garden

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2002:

Voices From the Garden: Stories of Becoming A Vegetarian
edited by Sharon & Daniel Towns
Lantern Books (1 Union Square West, #201, New York, NY 10003),
October 2001. 176 pages, paperback. $15.00.

Are you curious about other folks “going veggie” stories?
The first-person accounts in Voices From the Garden come for the most
part from ordinary people who have in common doing one thing that
mainstream America might consider extraordinary: they eat a vegan or
vegetarian diet. They range in age from teenagers to veterans of
sixty years without meat. They recount what it is like to challenge
the status quo-past and present. Among them are also a handful of
well-known people, including the former cattle rancher and
vegetarian advocate Howard Lyman, PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk,
and Richard Schwartz, author of Judaism and Vegetarianism.

In some respects, Voices From the Garden is much like
attending an animal advocacy meeting at which everyone takes a turn
answering the questions, “What made you become a vegetarian? How
have you maintained your diet? For how long?” Recurring themes
include embarking upon a different path and playing the rebel or even
the black sheep of the contributors’ families. Often the writer was
exposed to a traumatic episode in childhood, such as witnessing the
killing of a farm animal. Some were environmentalists first and
changed their diets later, when their minds expanded to include
concern for all animals.
Some still struggle with becoming vegan. Almost all have
incorporated some degree of animal advocacy into their lives. Most
satisfying is to read of the change of heart that many writers
brought to their families, who have often followed them into
vegetarianism. They share a variety of attitudes toward living in a
world of meat eaters. Some refuse to eat with friends where meat is
served; others are more relaxed.
Throughout the book the strong commitment to a diet that does
not harm animals rings as joyously as a clear bell. As Hippocrates
said “First, do no harm.”
One of my favorite stories, “Silence” by David Cantor,
resonates true in my life. Cantor recounts his attempts to share his
views with neighbors and family. Most vegetarian readers can relate
to the difficulty Cantor had in finding the balance between informing
others and stepping over a line which may result in silence about the
vegetarian issue between parties.
Voices concludes with a vegetarian resource list and
bibliography. The editors are compiling more stories for a second
book, and invite your submissions.
In time, this book and sequels may be useful to historians
in documenting the growth of the vegetarian and animal advocacy
movements. Meanwhile, vegetarians who often feel like pariahs will
find comfort in reading about kindred souls who share our passion.
-Eileen Weintraub

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