Don’t Sleep There Are Snakes by Daniel Everett
Book Review by Kristine Madera
Daniel Everett’s name and the intriguing story kept popping up when I was researching language and culture for a novel I was writing. So when Don’t Sleep There Are Snakes popped into my recommended reading list, I clicked right away. It’s a must-read if you’re in-depth interested in other cultures and languages and I definitely recommend the audio version read by the author. While it lacks the polish of a professional reader, he speaks a lot of Piraha so that the reader/listener gets a true sense of this fascinating language.
Daniel Everett was a missionary linguist with SIL—the Summer Institute of Linguistics—who went to the Piraha people in Amazonian Brazil and studied their language and culture for 20 or more years in order to translate the gospel into their language, assuming that if they heard the gospel, they would be eager to convert. Much of the book recounts his experience and the experience of his family while there, the process of learning a language that challenges prevailing theories of language, and quite a bit about the Piraha people and culture.
One of the main reasons I wanted to read this—obligatory spoiler alert, but knowing this about his story made the book much more intriguing to me—was Everett’s personal journey away from Christianity because of what he learned from the Piraha. So much of Western and religious work assumes that “we” are somehow the pinnacle of human evolution (God helps us!) and that “primitive” societies should move in the direction of that pinnacle that it is deeply refreshing to hear an honest and heartfelt account of questioning the dominant paradigms by looking at them from the point of view of people who have seen those paradigms and said, “no thanks.”
Everett’s public admission of his change of heart cost him dearly—marriage, family, friends, career, and so on, yet he did it anyway, in a brave example of having a heart and mind open enough to see himself, the world and the universe in a radically new way.
Kristine Madera is a #1 bestselling Amazon author, novelist, hypnotherapist, and pro-topian with a passion for helping people better themselves and the world. Informed by global travel, teaching abroad, and a stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer, Kristine believes that everyone plays a part in imagining and creating our collective future.
Volunteering at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying in Calcutta inspired her novel, God in Drag. She birthed her upcoming novel, The Snakeman’s Wife, as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Papua New Guinea.
Read the first chapter of God in Drag HERE