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Gloryland: A Novel
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Gloryland: A Novel

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  115 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Born on Emancipation Day, 1863, to a sharecropping family of black and Indian blood, Elijah Yancy never lived as a slave — but his self-image as a free person is at war with his surroundings: Spartanburg, South Carolina, in the Reconstructed South. Exiled for his own survival as a teenager, Elijah walks west to the Nebraska plains — and, like other rootless young African-A ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by Counterpoint (first published 2009)
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Gloryland by Shelton Johnson is the story of Elijah Yancy who is born on Emancipation Day in 1863. He is the son of sharecroppers who live in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Unfortunately they quickly learn that in the South emancipation did not mean equality.

Elijah's background is interesting in that he is both black and of Indian descent. As a teenager he witnesses a lynching and soon after he must leave the South in order to be spared his own life. He walks until he reaches Nebraska where he end
If you've watched the Ken Burns documentary The National Parks: America's Best Idea then you know that in the early days of Yosemite the only defense against sheep herders, loggers, and poachers was the Federal army which assigned a regiment of Buffalo Soldiers to patrol the park. Gloryland is a historical novel that follows the life of one of these soldiers from his childhood as the son of South Carolina sharecropper to his soul-saving assignment in Yosemite. Elijah Yancy is an allegorical char ...more
Each chapter in this book reads almost like poetry. This is not a gripping book, certainly not in terms of plot, but reading it chapter by chapter left me with a feeling of insight into the daunting world of being black, male, and strong-minded at the end of the 19th century in the newly "free" south. The book is supposedly about the experiences of one of the first African-American park rangers (the first ones were US Calvary soldiers) in Yosemite, but only the last few chapters touch on the nar ...more
Sharyn L.
I had the pleasure of meeting Shelton Johnson at an REI where was doing a presentation about Yosemite. He was "in character" as Elijah Yancy. A truly moving and wonderful evening. I couldn't wait to read his upcoming book, Gloryland. So much history, so much love of nature. While I'm not a huge fan of reading poetry, it works in this book and adds depth to the story. I'd recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Yosemite, the Buffalo soldiers, national parks, nature, and a good story. B ...more
I really think Shelton Johnson did a great job describing the "feel" of Yosemite and the Sierras. His prose is vivid and lyrical:

"It was a high meadow so close to the sky that the blue of heaven began to stain the plants below. You could see it in the high grass and flowers with the blue of the sky in their petals. Sky was so close there, maybe it was leaching its color, so after a rain the plant just pulls it from the air and gets drunk on it, waving back and forth in the breeze, giddy with in
This book took me a very long time to finish, but it really forced me to slow down in a way that a book hasn't for a long time. I kept coming back to it though. It is not very plot heavy and the timeline is heavily weighted in some areas and skips through others. It reads like drawn out poetry. I definitely struggled to keep momentum at times but reading passages out loud helped. More often, I had to tell myself to stop marking my book because I realized I was just marking the whole page.

He pres
Mar 04, 2013 Angela rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
Gloryland by Shelton Johnson. Beautifully written. Johnson has way of bringing you into the story with his vivid and detailed descriptions of the character's thoughts and their surroundings. Here's a partial excerpt from the inside book jacket:

Born on Emancipation Day, 1863, to a sharecropping family of African and Indian blood, Elijah Yancy never lived as a slave, but his self-image as a free person is at war with his surroundings: Spartanburg, South Carolina, in the Reconstructed South. Exi
A good read for an author's first novel. I enjoyed how Johnson weaved history into his story, so well that the main character could well have been a real person. The story covers a lot of ground from Emancipation Day to the founding of Yosemite National Park in California. Although the story dragged on in a few spots, I found the book to be a pleasurable read. As a history fan and a National Park fan, I was very excited by the storyline. I look forward to reading more by this author in the futur ...more
I knew Shelton Johnson as one of the memorable National Park Rangers in Ken Burns' most recent documentary series. This books is roughly based on the life of his great-grandfather who was a buffalo soldier and one of those who patrolled Yosemite NP around the turn of the century to protect it from poachers, loggers, miners, etc.

A young black man struggling with his sense of identity in Reconstruction Era South Carolina, leaves on foot and eventually joins the US Cavalry in Nebraska. Continued st
Gloryland is the story of Elijah Yancy who was born in South Carolina on the day the Emacipation Proclamation was signed, but as the son of black sharecroppers in the South, he always understood that he wasn't really free. Forced to leave home in his teens, he eventually joins the US Cavalry and becomes a Buffalo Soldier. A soldier in the Army isn't really free, either, but when he gets assigned to patrol Yosemite National Park he finally feels like he has found a place where he can be at home a ...more
I noticed this book at the gift shop in Yosemite and decided to borrow it from the library. It's about Elijah Yancey, born in the South just after the official end of slavery. As he grows up, he discovers he can't live in a town where the mere fact that he walks on the sidewalk that the whites expect is only for them creates a threat to his family. He sets out on his own cross country, signs up for the Calvary, and ends up patrolling Yosemite on horseback. The book is written in the format of a ...more
If you saw the Ken Burn's National Parks series, it's not hard to recall USNP Ranger Shelton Johnson and his touching accounts of personal moments in Yellowstone and Yosemite. In his first novel, Gloryland, Johnson shares a riveting philosophical journal of post-emancipation life for a slave's son as he makes his way across a torn and wounded landscape to become a Buffalo Soldier protecting Yosemite. A great read for those that seek rich historical writings in our American experience, lovers of ...more
Betsy Johnson
Having just returned from another visit to Yosemite, I couldn't help but cherish his descriptions of his experiences and feelings in the wild beauty of Gloryland.
Oh, wow, I can hear Shelton's real voice as I read his written words, and, especially when the story happens in Yosemite, I can smell and see all the places. I met Shelton ten years ago through my own ranger husband who worked with Shelton in Yosemite. I love the way Shelton loves his characters and the places they live. Shelton can be both mystical AND grounded. One of my favorite parts is when Elijah finds freedom (and it's in Yosemite in 1903). "A colored man running in the wild and no one ch ...more
I liked this book in many ways. Particularly, it was a new angle on what it means to be black in America. Johnson's deft use of imagery and similes in the early parts of the book impressed me, though sometimes their quick succession seemed out of rhythm.

I will admit that I expected more of a plot and did not give that up until too late in the book, by which point I had a hard time not feeling disappointed at the lack of one.

Nonetheless, reading "Gloryland" gave me a yearning to visit the mount
I really wanted to love this book; the language is lovely, the images are poetically described, the voice is so unique, and the various descriptions of how it feels to be black are so touching. However, I suspect that I simply need more plot, and the book certainly fell short on that score. I found myself skimming pages (and more pages, and more pages)as Shelton Johnson continued to explore God, home, family, and humanity as it pertains to Yosemite. This book seems to be the epitome of the term ...more
In a rare reading of a work of fiction by me, I am thrilled that I finally read this book. I first saw this book on display at both Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks when I as driving across the country last year. I was intrigued by the book's story as well as by the author himself and his biography - he is an actual working park ranger, who also happens to be an incredible story teller and writer. Wonderful read and language, beautifully crafted, but condense and succinct.
This is one of those books that I cautiously selected at the library, not knowing what to expect. I will be purchasing my own copy of this, not only for the wonderful writing, language and phrasing, but for the moving story of a man finding himself and learning what freedom really means. Time and again I found myself wanting to earmark a phrase; Shelton Johnson has a beautiful way with words.
Gloryland reads like poetry, each page a little vignette with such descriptive language that you feel you are there. In a way, it almost reads like a prayer.

It is a slice of little-known history when black rangers were sent to Yosemite because it was the most remote post.

My problem with this book is that it is so short on plot that his marriage and family are listed as an afterthought.
I was fortunate enough to meet Shelton Johnson furing my first trip to Yosemite. He is an amazing storyteller, and his eloquence shines through in this novel. As a Ranger, sharing the story of the buffalo soldiers in Yosemite has become his passion, and the tale he has crafted here reflects that. This book is both heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. I highly recommend it!
It wasn't my favorite style of writing, but I really loved the story and the themes present in the book. I thought the author did an excellent job discussing these themes within the context of the book and it's characters. I'm certainly glad I read the book, and it has really made me want to go back to Yosemite!
The book was amazing, which is not to say that the criticisms I read are not also accurate. It is more poetry than plot, but since I didn't know what to expect going in, I was not disappointed. The use of simile and metaphor was the amazing part but I, also, found myself wanting more of a story.
A really interesting book that is a story I didn't know -- about the experience of a black cavalry soldier in the late 19th and early 20th century; and about the beginning of Yosemite Park. The author is a National Park Ranger, and his obvious love of Yosemite shines through this wonderful tale.
Third time through was a good as the first. A stunning historical novel that really takes you to the time and place. You see. You feel. You smell. You taste. This is a book that must be read slowly and savored. Buy it. You'll want to highlight and reread sections over and over.
Scott Thompson
This is a beautifully written novel with poetry in every line. But don’t let that discourage you as this is also a great story. It’s an easy read that leaves you thinking and wanting more. I enjoyed this novel and hope that Ranger Johnson will write more.
Nancy Day
A memorable meditation on freedom and life--I couldn't stop turning pages down I wanted to find again. Shelton Johnson not only knows Yosemite and his buffalo soldier character intimately, but he writes--and thinks-- beautifully. Bravo!
Shelton Johnson's story is a wonderful depiction of the life of a buffalo soldier just after Emancipation Day in the late 1800s. His descriptions are superb! He finds his true home at his posting to Yosemite. A truly great story!
Beautifully written. It takes Elijah Yancy a long time to get to Yosemite, but it's worth the wait. And everything he's gone through beforehand makes what he finds for himself in Yosemite even more precious.
Story of a Buffalo Soldier who also was one of the first national forest rangers at Yosemite. Author is actual ranger at Yosemite and this is based on his great-grandfather. Very good read.
An interesting read by a conservationist I admire. His fictional protagonist was a member of the Buffalo Soldiers and then a patroller in our first national parks.
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