The Indian newspaper The Pioneer published an interesting review of Upriver on July 26. The reviewer, Kumar Chellappan, uses the book to make explicit comparisons to the situation of India’s “tribals.” “Suppression and oppression of the Awajún by the city folks who come to the Amazonian region for plundering the forest wealth and rubber cultivation are no different from the sufferings of the tribals in India at the hands of city dwellers who colonise the tribal territories for monetary benefits. Whether it be in Peru or India, the evangelists subjugated and destroyed the tribals and their culture under the pretext of introducing civilisation among them,” Chellappan writes.
There is much truth in this, although here we see a smart reviewer, whose heart is in the right place, miss the book’s principal message: The Awajún have most assuredly not been “destroyed” by missionaries or resource-seeking outsiders. Damaged and disoriented, yes. But destroyed? Hardly. Upriver is above all about Awajún resilience, grit, and resourcefulness in the face of formidable odds.
Months after it appeared in February 2015, I discovered another review of Upriver in a blog post written by Chad Thatcher, who is involved with production of a documentary video called The Primary Source that focuses on Peru’s Marañón River. (Scroll down a bit to find Thatcher’s assessment of Upriver, which doesn’t have its own URL.) In many ways this review is more nuanced and thorough than trade reviews the book has received elsewhere.