Songs of the Baka and Other Discoveries: Travels After Sixty-Five

Dennis James (Author) Barbara Grossman (Photographer)


Abandoning the comfort and security of a typical retirement, a couple travels and treks through the most isolated parts of the world.

After their retirement, Dennis James and Barbara Grossman decide to travel where tour buses won't and where the US government says "don't," incorporating trekking into their travels as a way to see untouched areas of the world considered inhospitable by many.

Armed with a passport, an interest in non-Western and indigenous cultures, a spirit for adventure, and a sense of humor, they hike through the forests in the highlands of Papua New Guinea; visit the traditional hunter-gatherer Baka Pygmy community in Cameroon; stay with the cliff-dwelling Dogon people in Mali; explore Roman ruins in Algeria; meet a nervous mother rhino in Nepal; and witness bull-jumping, a coming-of-age ritual for young Hamer men in Ethiopia.

In defiance of typical tourist travel, ignoring State Department warnings, and with a curiosity and hardiness that belies their ages, Dennis and Barbara choose to travel the roads not taken so frequently--to places like Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, and Gaza--seeking the truth behind the headlines and exploring the deeper questions about the local cultures they encounter. Why do these people cling to the art, sexual mores, economic and political hierarchies, and spiritualities that govern their lives? And how and why do they remain resistant to the pressures of globalization?

A journey into the other sides of the world, Songs of the Baka and Other Discoveries puts aside preconceptions and combines the wisdom of age with the stamina of youth.

Product Details

Skyhorse Publishing
Publish Date
February 21, 2017
6.2 X 1.1 X 9.1 inches | 1.0 pounds
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About the Author

Dennis James is a retired attorney and writer. His short fiction and travel articles have been published in magazines such as Mobius, the Journal of Social Change, Summerset Review, the MacGuffin, The Griffin, Struggle Magazine, and The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) Report on the Americas. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Barbara Grossman is a retired attorney. She takes all of the photos on the couple's travels. Her photographs have been published in The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) Report on the Americas. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.


"A colorful report on far-flung destinations. Retired lawyers James and Grossman share an insatiable desire to travel, especially to isolated, sometimes-dangerous places where most tourists fear to go. Drawing on James's journals, Grossman's photographs, and their memories, they recount ten memorable trips to remote sites in countries such as Mali, Ethiopia, Iran, and Algeria. . . . Travel dispatches that offer a rare perspective on a world few see so intimately."
--Kirkus Review

"It's not uncommon for retired couples to travel, but it's often a matter of visiting all fifty states, spending extended stays with family, or taking European grand tours. James and his wife, however, decided to see places that few tourists dare--or care--to encounter . . . . James recounts the adventures with an absence of hyperbole and does not gloss over the temporary miseries of being wet and muddy or trying to follow barely forged trails."

"Traveling to parts of the world where few Americans dare to venture, Dennis James and Barbara Grossman bear witness to the resilience and creativity of those threatened by political oppression, poverty, and the encroachments of globalization. Keen to learn rather than to teach or preach, they write with compassion, humility and curiosity, rather than the condescending voyeurism that is far too common among Western tourists. ... Both senior citizens, . . . their spirit is ever youthful, and they distinguish themselves as citizens of the world."
--Adam Shatz, contributing editor of London Review of Books

"Two . . . retired attorneys, who know something about life having represented real people in Detroit starting in the rebellious sixties[, ] . . . now take to the road--Barbara with her camera, Dennis with his pen--and their trips to really out-of-the-way places are thrilling. Read [Songs of the Baka], and get your passport renewed. You're in for a lot of adventures."
--Michael Steven Smith, author and co-host of Law and Disorder Radio

"The world of indigenous cultures sought out by Dennis James in Songs of the Baka and Other Discoveries are, sadly, fast disappearing. The ravages of modernity, enmeshing all of us, seems to have been, along with an inordinate curiosity, more than enough incentive for Dennis James, accompanied by his wife, Barbara Grossman, to see and experience parts of the world that you cannot expect your neighbors to know anything about. . . . [James] would be a spell-binding dinner guest. Songs of the Baka and Other Discoveries is, in the absence of a dinner invitation, a perfectly good way to spend time with a man whom you
will want to know."
--James Elkins, editor of Legal Studies Forum

"Makes a strong case for independent and ambitious travel for those of us getting up in years. . . . Not letting other peoples' cautious advice or their own fears stop them, James and Grossman show us how to take on unusual travel experiences without being foolhardy. This highly readable book is especially for those of us whose tastes in travel are anthropological, for those of us who are still really curious about the world, for those of us who are alive."
--Mark Fishman, retired Professor of Sociology of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and Brooklyn College CUNY

"Dennis and Barbara travel exactly the opposite of the way I travel: in complete comfort. Yet their experiences make me yearn for the exotic, unexpected wonder that is only possible when you give yourself over to real adventure. While [they] take the uncharted paths, the reader travels along in "comfort class," relishing every exciting moment in their brave new adventures."
--Benita Garvin, writer and producer of The Killing Yard