After Life as a Human
Located off of Florida's Forgotten Coast, Dog Island is a wild twin of St. George Island, a popular resort destination. Unlike St. George, however, Dog Island hosts less than 100 residents and a large nature preserve. Accessible only by boat or airplane, the island's pristine state attracts those who seek reprieve from the noise of modern life and those drawn to an ancient paradise untouched by commercial enterprises. Yet, with sea-level rising, industrial spills poisoning the wildlife, and climate change increasing the frequency of hurricanes, Dog Island is swiftly becoming a paradise lost, another casualty of humanity's reluctance to acknowledge its interconnectedness to all living things. The seven essays in this collection braid local history, environmental research, and spiritual meditations to reflect on the island's wild beauty and the heartbreaking destruction of its fragile ecology.
In Laura Valeri’s new and beautifully-written collection of linked essays, she transports us to Dog Island, a remote paradise-of-sorts—devoid of the insidious distractions of contemporary human existence, overrun with coyotes—seeking solitude and peace amid the undisturbed flora and fauna. Braiding lyrical travelogue and Dillard-esque meditation, and filtered through interrogations into history and mythology, After Life as a Human becomes a profound engagement of the rapaciousness of late-stage capitalism, and the delicacy of a natural world threatened by industry and climate change. Valeri’s powers of observation and environmental responsibility are on full display, and they accumulate here into a Walden for the 21st century.
-Matthew Gavin Frank, author of Flight of the Diamond Smugglers: A Tale of Pigeons, Obsession, and Greed Along Coastal South Africa
Looking for refuge where people “let down by the rat race could get some quiet time for reflection,” Laura Valeri and her husband Joel rent a cottage on remote, primeval Dog Island, home to ten humans and two dogs. With a journalist’s observational skills and the heart of a poet, she paints a stark and lovely portrait of a Gulf Coast wilderness few of us will ever see. The story engrosses us with funny accounts of pelicans, the “street kids” of seabirds. It stuns us with a litany of devastating storms. It touches us with an aching meditation on the death of a loon. After Life as a Human is a timely, vital contemplation of the mutability of the wild and our own frail impermanence.
--James Lough author of This Aint No Holiday Inn: Down and Out at the Chelsea Hotel
Laura Valeri is writing about one of my favorite places on earth, the wild and deeply storied Gulf Coast of Florida. Here she describes -- in scenic, confident, and refreshingly honest prose -- falling in love with a place that is on the front lines of the climate crisis. The book is at once about love, grief, and the transformation that happens when one’s heart opens to wildness.
--Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood