Saturday, July 25, 2009

Jennifer Mathews' "Chicle"

Jennifer P. Mathews is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Trinity University and is Co-Director of the Yalahau Regional Human Ecology Project.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Chicle: The Chewing Gum of the Americas, From the Ancient Maya to William Wrigley, and reported the following:
Page 99 is revealing about Chicle: The Chewing Gum of the Americas - From the Ancient Maya to William Wrigley, but not in a way that you might think. While the book is a broad overview of the history of chicle-based chewing gum written for a general audience, "Page 99" is a series of detailed footnotes that reveal the more academic side of the book, focusing in particular on the botany of the tree from which the chicle latex comes. For those who crave the minutiae of academic research, this would be the place to look ... otherwise, a place to glance over. The book is written in four parts - the first, covering the prehistoric use of chewing gum and the sapodilla tree in Mesoamerica; the second covering the botany of the plant and its history of use around the world; the third is about the industrialization of the commodity, the relationship between fascinating characters like William Wrigley and Thomas Adams, the impact that they had on Latin America, and the ties that chewing gum has to historic figures like Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and Amelia Earhart; finally, the fourth part focuses on the chicleros - the extractors of chicle, who toiled away in the jungle for nine months of the year so that the rest of the world could have chewing gum.
Read an excerpt from Chicle, and listen to a National Public Radio interview with Jennifer P. Mathews.

Visit Jennifer P. Mathews' website.

--Marshal Zeringue