Book Review: Persimmon Takes on the World by Christopher Locke

raccoon outside grass

raccoon outside grass

Ready for a real adventure? Animal-cruelty fighting raccoon Persimmon takes us on a journey to end animal suffering in all its forms in Persimmon Takes on the World (Fathoming Press 2015). Christopher Locke tells this story with the nuance of the animal rights movement and a cast of compelling characters compared to the likes of the Hunger Games and Captain Underpants.

Persimmon is out to save as many creatures as she can, one at a time. But she’s not in it alone. Her team of Enlighteners is there to help Persimmon fight to end animal suffering every single day. This gang of enlightened animals isn’t always certain how they’re going to convince humans to be compassionate towards animals, but they’re damn sure going to try.

There’s more to this crime-fighting raccoon than meets the eye. First, there’s the name Persimmon, of course. She’s not the first animal to get a name and definitely won’t be the last. Still, there’s nothing funny about a raccoon on a mission to end animal cruelty. It’s inspiring.

Animals with names

The very fact that Persimmon has a name is a compassionate show of force. Persimmon is a living, breathing animal just like you and me. That’s the low hanging fruit (if you will). We humans all have names. But most animals aren’t called by names. They’re called by their cut of meat, or maybe their circus name.

Every time we refer to an animal by its cut of meat–bacon, pork, loin, shoulder–we remove every last ounce of humanity. We turn animals into commodities. Pigs and cows and chickens are goods to be sold. Milk and eggs are products to be managed. Meanwhile, chickens and cows and pigs are suffering. We build entire systems just to strip them of their name. And that’s just the start. Animals lose their right to life because most of us do not believe they deserve one. But they do. Every sentient being on this planet deserves a right to life, and we are definitely not the one who should be taking it away from others.

That’s a little heavy, I know. Hopefully, a careful reminder of the animals we eat shows you how serious this book can be. Like anything else you read, it’s open to interpretation. It’s up to you to decide what you’ll take from Persimmon’s story.

Calling animals by name is a sign of love and respect, even if the name is given by a human. Names bring us closer together. We have them, and so should animals. To be recognized, to feel warm, to be comforted, to feel alive: Each of these moments is the result of the simplest act of kindness. Calling someone like Persimmon by their name.

Persimmon, the fruit

Persimmon takes on a new meaning next to persimmon, the fruit. Persimmons look a lot like tomatoes. They taste a lot like them too. In their immature state, they’re green and bitter. For Persimmon, the raccoon, this could be a foreboding symbol of the bitter-sweet fight ahead. We’re ready to foster dogs but we still kill pigs for food.

When the persimmon ripens, it becomes sweet, juicy, full of life and love and happiness for all creatures. This story has a happy ending, if persimmon, the fruit, wasn’t a dead giveaway. Persimmon takes the fighting spirit of the animal rights movement to another level, one that’s full of hope. But what about the here and now? It’s easy to get caught up in problems as big as factory farming. It’s even easier to feel like the problem won’t be fixed in our lifetime. That might be true. It also might not. Take a page from Persimmon’s playbook and say yes, it is true. We can see the end of animal farming. Let Persimmon gives you hope in the face of so much suffering.

As Persimmon puts it, “So come on, Enlighteners. Innocent creatures need rescuing, and it’s our job to set them free.” How incredibly ironic. Animals declaring the job of animal liberation their own. That should be enough for any wary pet owner to turn full-blown animal advocate overnight, but most of the time it’s not. And we should ask ourselves, why isn’t it enough?

raccoon hiding tree

Get enlightened

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more relatable story about raccoons. Persimmon takes on the world and more. She steals our hearts—and in an amazing feat of bravery–Persimmon, the raccoon, becomes an animal protector. It makes no difference to her whether or not the animal she is saving is a raccoon, squirrel, or an elephant. If only we could see ourselves as Persimmon does.

You can start today! For all the long-winded arguments you might feel like you have to read to talk about politics or world history or animal rights, there’s something to be said for putting it simply. Persimmon does just that for the animal rights community. In just a few words, this book breaks down the barriers between humans and animals. It reminds us that we’re not just on this Earth to please ourselves. There’s a whole world teaming with life that we seem to keep walking right by or worse. We keep taking life for the sake of our own. It’s hard to imagine how the relationship between humans and animals got this way. But we have the opportunity to fix it, all of us do.

The most amazing part about this book is that it really is for everyone. Its simple, captivating style makes it all-too-easy for her voice to slip off the page and into your mind. Forget that you’re reading about a raccoon. You’re reading about compassion at its more sincere. Animals need our love and kindness now more than ever, even lion-hearted raccoons. Spread some love and stand up for animals today.

Spoiler alert: “Humans act like they own the ground, the air, the water, and all the wonderful creatures that live in those place, but they’re wrong.” Somehow, it means more coming from a raccoon. Persimmon Takes on the World is truly a classic.