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Phoenix Zones: Where Strength Is Born and Resilience Lives

Dr. Hope Ferdowsian, University of Chicago Press

Date: 2018

From the University of Chicago Press: 

Few things get our compassion flowing like the sight of suffering.

But our response is often shaped by our ability to empathize with others. Some people respond to the suffering of only humans or to one person’s plight more than another’s. Others react more strongly to the suffering of an animal.

These divergent realities can be troubling—but they are also a reminder that trauma and suffering are endured by all beings, and we can learn lessons about their aftermath, even across species.

With Phoenix Zones, Dr. Hope Ferdowsian shows us how.

Ferdowsian has spent years traveling the world to work with people and animals who have endured trauma—war, abuse, displacement. Here, she combines compelling stories of survivors with the latest science on resilience to help us understand the link between violence against people and animals and the biological foundations of recovery, peace, and hope.

Taking us to the sanctuaries that give the book its title, she reveals how the injured can heal and thrive if we attend to key principles: respect for liberty and sovereignty; a commitment to love and tolerance; the promotion of justice; and a fundamental belief that each individual possesses dignity.

Courageous tales show us how: stories of combat veterans and wolves recovering together at a California refuge, Congolese women thriving in one of the most dangerous places on earth, abused chimpanzees finding peace in a Washington sanctuary, and refugees seeking care at Ferdowsian’s own medical clinic.

These are not easy stories. Suffering is real, and recovery is hard.

But resilience is real, too, and Phoenix Zones shows how we can foster it. It reveals how both people and animals deserve a chance to live up to their full potential—and how such a view could inspire solutions to some of the greatest challenges of our time.


What People Are Saying about Phoenix Zones:

“This is a gem of a book. Using real stories about real people, Phoenix Zones delivers a powerful message about how we may confront, understand, and overcome adversity and make the world a better place for ourselves and the other animals that we share it with. It radiates light and offers hope in these dark and dangerous times.” ~David Livingstone Smith, author of Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others

“Human and nonhuman animal rights activist Dr. Hope Ferdowsian has witnessed the horrific effects of brutality directed at both. Phoenix Zones are sanctuaries throughout the earth that extraordinary people have created to allow these dignified human and nonhuman victims to reclaim their lives. An acute observer of all animals, human and nonhuman, Hope’s fine prose and deftly drawn portraits allow us to understand how we can not only support these Phoenix Zones but also create a world in which they become obsolete.” ~Steven Wise, president of the Nonhuman Rights Project

“An extraordinary, vital book that demonstrates how trauma runs deep, not recognizing gender, race, nationality, age, or species. An absorbing read that combines hard science with adventure, personal observation, and compassion.” ~Ingrid Newkirk, president and cofounder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

“Hope Ferdowsian has spent a lifetime serving the most vulnerable and abused members of our societies; my own career took me to postrevolutionary Libya, where our mission statement was encapsulated in the phrase ‘to support the Libyan people in rebuilding a secure society where they can love and work with dignity.’ Dr. Ferdowsian’s book Phoenix Zones not only offers a positive vision of human renewal following horrific experiences but also makes a compelling case that the true measure of our ethical standards is the degree of justice and sovereignty accorded the most defenseless members of our societies, including sentient, nonhuman animals as well as women and children. Ferdowsian suggests the only way to mitigate the abusive treatment of human beings—which she convincingly argues often follows models of animal exploitation—is the development of an empathic culture that recognizes the importance of according dignity, with concomitant protections, to all these groups. Her book is particularly timely in the current political atmosphere.” ~Deborah K. Jones, US Ambassador to Libya (2013–15) and Kuwait (2008–11), retired

“Ferdowsian is at her best when she brings together concrete steps for change with inspiring rhetoric. She shows us what is possible: working from within a principled framework, we may rethink our connection with others (human and animal) and normalize the type of compassion that is currently exceptional.” ~Barbara J. King, The Times Literary Supplement

“Ferdowsian’s voice echoes those of ethologist and compassionate conservationist Jane Goodall, whose pioneering scientific work documented the complex lives of other animals, and Paul Farmer, the anthropologist and physician who changed public health interventions by conceptualizing structural violence to describe the way in which societal structures create and perpetuate morbidity and mortality for marginalized individuals.” ~Kate Cummings, Minding Nature

Phoenix Zones: Where Strength Is Born and Resilience Lives by Hope Ferdowsian, MD, is among the many compassionate, powerful, inspiring books the world needs now….Published in 2018, Phoenix Zones feels more relevant than ever, addressing issues that include pandemics and social justice; it is also highly accessible, its ideas portrayed with empathy and compassion…” ~Midge Raymond, EcoLit Books

Here is a discussion guide available through The University of Chicago Press.


Find out where you can buy a copy of Phoenix Zones.


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