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Phoenix Zones

Where Strength Is Born and Resilience Lives

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.

See a discussion guide for the book.

Read the first chapter.

224 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2018

Biological Sciences: Behavioral Biology


Philosophy: Ethics


"It is the power of the individual spirit for resilience after trauma that is illuminated in these two projects, Ferdowsian believes. With clarity and poignancy, she lays out a case that human and animal suffering are closely connected. . . . Ferdowsian has no time for human exceptionalism, and it turns out that she is on solid ground in her position. . . . 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. As Ferdowsian puts it, 'If the initial conditions are principles, we need to start there, apply them with consistency, and build up to rise up.''

Barbara J. King | Times Literary Supplement

"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 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 PETA

"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

Table of Contents


Part 1: The Clues: Finding Hope amid Despair
Chapter 1: The Phoenix Effect: From Oppression and Vulnerability to Strength and Resilience
Chapter 2: Unearthing the Shared Roots of Violence and Vulnerability

Part 2: The Quest: Phoenix Zones—Principles in Action
Chapter 3: Liberty: Refuge for Asylum Seekers and Chimpanzees
Chapter 4: Sovereignty: Global Sanctuary for Unchained Elephants and People
Chapter 5: Love and Tolerance: Combat Veterans and Wolves in a Desert Forest
Chapter 6: Justice: Shelter for Homeless Children and Their Companion Animals
Chapter 7: Hope and Opportunity: Rising Women, Girls, and Gorillas in Congo
Chapter 8: Dignity: Safe Harbor for Degraded People and Farm Animals

Part 3: The Rise: Building Phoenix Zones in a Conflicted World
Chapter 9: What Can We Learn from Phoenix Zones?
Chapter 10: Openings to the Impossible


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