Lucy Critical Context - Essay

Maitland Edey

Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Lucy was Donald Johanson’s first book, but it established him as a scientist with the ability to make anthropology attractive to general readers, including young adults with an appreciation for science. Lucy became a best-seller, was translated into several languages, and served as a supplemental text in some college courses in anthropology and human evolution. Johanson became one of the few publicly acknowledged experts on human ancestors.

Johanson and Maitland Edey followed the success of Lucy with Blueprints: Solving the Mystery of Evolution (1989). This book, with Edey as the primary author, focuses on genetic issues in human prehistory. Blueprints has not been as popular as Lucy and is far more technical. More scientific background is needed to understand the book’s arguments, and it is not easy for most young adults to read.

Johanson soon returned to his roots, however, with a series of books written in the mold of Lucy: Lucy’s Child (1989), with James Shreeve; Journey from the Dawn: Life with the World’s First Family (1990), with Kevin O’Farrell; and Ancestors: In Search of Human Origins (1994), with Lenora Johanson and Blake Edgar. These three books are stylistically similar to Lucy and deal with the same themes—the origins of humankind, science as a process, and the importance of human personalities in science—but speculate more on human origins. All are suitable for young adults, especially Ancestors, which was written to accompany the NOVA television series.