A librarian friend of mine recently told me that the books of prehistorical fiction by the husband and wife team of Kathleen O'Neal and Michael Gear (A librarian friend of mine recently told me that the books of prehistorical fiction by the husband and wife team of Kathleen O'Neal and Michael Gear (authors and archeologists) have waned in popularity, so much so that small libraries no longer keep them on the shelves. This is a shame, because modern readers with any interest in early native America and/or archeology (or heroes and heart-stopping combat, for that matter) are missing a rare treat. People of the Longhouse is the first of a 4-book series that imagines the life of Dekanawida, the great peacemaker of Iroquoian legend that brought five warring nations together to create the powerful Iroquois alliance known to the earliest white settlers.
Since changing the mind-set of a culture, as legend and archeological record suggest Dekanawida did, requires Herculean effort and keen motivation, the authors imagine for him a childhood beset by fear, violence, and abuse (including kidnapping and child sex-trafficking -- the horrors of mankind did not begin yesterday). As he escapes his tormentors and triumphs over his past, he begins to envision a different society and more peaceful way to live and (because this is 15th century native America) he calls upon the powers of the spirits to help him, which they do in impressive fashion, eventually helping him to succeed against all odds.
When I bought this first book, I did not realize that it was a series. As soon as I finished it, I immediately went to my local Barnes and Noble and bought the remaining 3 books in the series. That fact probably says all I need to about my recommendation! I found each succeeding book was a little better than the last, especially the final two. (I would caution readers, however, that many scenes are appallingly violent, and since children are involved, that makes the violence even harder to take. So beware.) I hope that eventually a new generation of readers discovers this author duo, and along the way, learns something about the very earliest history of North America....more
I am a huge fan of Dan Simmons! His books are always intriguing and NEVER formulaic, though he often combines elements of well-researched history andI am a huge fan of Dan Simmons! His books are always intriguing and NEVER formulaic, though he often combines elements of well-researched history and way-out-there fantasy -- a combination that ensures the reader can never quite guess what is going to happen, no matter how well she knows the history of a event.
This particular book combines the historical events of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, and the carving of Mount Rushmore with the fictional life of a Sioux mystic named Paha Sapa who reluctantly channels the ghost of General George Armstrong Custer -- for decades. I found the interweaving of historical fact and wholesale imagination to be uniquely pleasurable, satisfying my love of history and my affinity for literary escapism both at the same time. (And I especially delighted in the moment I could say, "Whoa -- I did NOT see that coming!" It's that kind of surprise that makes reading fiction so much fun!)
So, I definitely recommend this book. My copy is staying on my "Favorites" shelf! ...more
I found this book to be thought-provoking, but I have a special interest in both medicine and Native American spirituality, so keep this in mind whileI found this book to be thought-provoking, but I have a special interest in both medicine and Native American spirituality, so keep this in mind while you read this review. I think that if you do not share these interests, you might find this book either tedious or guilty of stretching the boundaries of common sense.
The author is both an M.D. (his degree is from Stanford University, so nothing shabby there) and a practicing shaman, carrying on the healing traditions of his Cherokee grandmother. (And lest you think it was the medical degree that required the most rigorous course of study, the book makes it clear that the author's apprenticeship in the shamanic arts required an equivalent amount of time and effort.) I found most intriguing the author's belief that every disease has both a physical AND a spiritual cause, and that both must be addressed for true healing to occur. Given recent research into the power of the mind/body connection, it seems to me that native views on healing may have something valuable to add to the science of modern medicine. I recommend this book to those interested in alternative medicine and, of course, to those interested in Native American tradition....more
I'd been meaning to read this since it was first published (in the mid-90's) but, somehow, I'd never managed to get around to it. My enjoyment of AlexI'd been meaning to read this since it was first published (in the mid-90's) but, somehow, I'd never managed to get around to it. My enjoyment of Alexie's YA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, sent me back to the bookstore to finally "get around to it." And while I didn't enjoy this short story collection as much as I did "Diary" (Sorry, Mr. Alexie, but I agree with your first agent that the stories needed some polishing.), the introduction to the 10th-anniversary edition that I purchased, written by Alexie himself, was alone worth the purchase price. A very funny and intelligent man, this Mr. Alexie -- how can I wrangle an introduction? (-: ...more
This book is another example of YA literature that is a pleasure for readers of any age. You will likely find yourself so entertained that you won't rThis book is another example of YA literature that is a pleasure for readers of any age. You will likely find yourself so entertained that you won't realize you are also learning something until after you have finished the book. Then you may find yourself reflecting, as I did, upon the darker, but very real, themes of poverty, stunted opportunity, and hopelessness that pervades the world of the disenfranchised in America, specifically, the world of one talented (and funny!) adolescent boy growing up on an Indian reservation in the western United States.
However,do NOT think that you will end this book feeling grim (and if your heritage is white, guilty). You won't. Though, as an animal lover, I will forever remember one particular chapter as defining for me the pain of being poor, the end of this book left me feeling hopeful -- uplifted, even! So, even if you have been my Goodreads friend for a long time, and you are correctly thinking, "Now wait, this is Sue, and she loves Native Americana. She always rates books in this subject area on the high side," you should also look at the overall GR rating, and see that 67,000+ people can't be entirely wrong! (-: Read it, friends!
I was disappointed; I have read others in this series that I liked more. (For the uninitiated, the Gears are a husband/wife team of archeologists thatI was disappointed; I have read others in this series that I liked more. (For the uninitiated, the Gears are a husband/wife team of archeologists that also write fiction based on their knowledge and theories.) Since this appears to be the first book in their series, maybe the Gear's writing got better as they went along -- or, maybe, I have become a more sophisticated reader. (Though since I am currently reading a vampire tale and a romance, this would appear unlikely.) For the record, I thought the dialogue was a little too melodramatic and that gave the tale a modern cadence that just didn't seem to fit the story. (Though who's to say that early North Americans didn't have their share of drama queens? (-:)
Though this wasn't my favorite book, I will probably read more in the series, so I wouldn't let my "just okay" rating for this single book dissuade you too much. It's recommended for pre-history buffs, especially those that like their archeological speculations mixed with a little melodrama!...more
I first read this book while on vacation after picking it up in a hotel gift shop. (My husband and I were driving through the reservation lands of theI first read this book while on vacation after picking it up in a hotel gift shop. (My husband and I were driving through the reservation lands of the Navajo Nation in Arizona and New Mexico, lands of stark and arresting beauty, and sometimes, stark and arresting poverty.) I recently re-read it when it was chosen as one of our book club choices, and I liked it very much all over again.
The book is a memoir of growing up surrounded by Navajo lands and culture, of leaving those lands for the opportunity of a first-rate education (Dartmouth and Stanford), and returning to those lands as a young surgeon who soon finds that the practice of modern medicine is not always the practice of healing. In response, Dr. Alvord turns again to the teachings of her childhood culture, in which life's harmony and balance are considered the cornerstones of true health. She begins to incorporate the principles of this Navajo spiritual philosophy into her practice of modern Western medicine, bringing the best of both worlds to the patients she serves, with gratifying results.
I'm particularly interested in all things Native American, so I am predisposed to like this book, but I did find it a well-written memoir. Small anecdotes and memories made me see my own culture and environment in a different light (which is part of the point of reading, in my opinion) and Dr. Alvord's commitment to seeing her patients as individuals first and medical cases second made me long for a less profit-driven health care system. All in all, I'm pretty glad I wandered into that gift shop! ...more
My rating is 1.5 stars. The monthly "Red Road Spiritual Lessons" included in this book would be a reasonably good introduction to Native American thouMy rating is 1.5 stars. The monthly "Red Road Spiritual Lessons" included in this book would be a reasonably good introduction to Native American thought for the complete novice, but the daily quotations I too often found shallow and superficial and sometimes taken out-of-context (much like the televised political sound bites we are all subjected to during election years). Additionally, the "Did You Know?" comments I found demeaning to both myself as a reader and people with Native American heritage in general. (For instance, included in the "Did You Know?" lists were these gems: "Indians do not all look alike" and "Not all Indians are alcoholics." My hunch is that anyone who holds these opinions would not be buying this book in the first place!) And while I agree that we as a nation must admit to a collective guilt in our treatment of the native peoples of America, I found it disconcerting to read an uplifting spiritual quote-for-the-day followed by a reminder that "on this date in history, hundreds of innocent native women and children were murdered by . . ." and so on. Either write a book on spirituality or a history of the disgraceful treatment of America's native peoples, but don't try to do both on one page!
If you are looking for a good introduction to a traditionally Native American view of life's big questions, my suggestion is to look elsewhere. There are surely better books out there (and as soon as I find them, I will let you know!)
Warning: My rating for this book reflects my bias toward any story about Native American history, so take that into account as you read this, but sincWarning: My rating for this book reflects my bias toward any story about Native American history, so take that into account as you read this, but since I myself got 5 stars worth of enjoyment out of reading this, that is my rating, and I'm sticking to it!
This is my favorite kind of historical fiction, the kind that takes a little-known footnote from the pages of American history and fleshes it out into an interesting and plausible story. "Caleb" is a Wampanoag Indian who lives in what is today coastal Massachusetts and Martha's Vineyard as the pioneering English Puritans encroach upon both his land and his culture. As an adolescent, he befriends the daughter of the local minister (a man determined to convert the native population to his own strict Calvinism), and it is she who actually narrates the story of Caleb's unlikely "crossing" into the world of the English. Based on the true story of the first Native American graduate of "the college of Newtowne" aka Harvard, it is an early American saga of curiosity and cultural divide. ...more
I've been fascinated with the mysterious disappearance of the colonists on Roanoke Island ever since 5th grade, when I slipped a biography of VirginiaI've been fascinated with the mysterious disappearance of the colonists on Roanoke Island ever since 5th grade, when I slipped a biography of Virginia Dare off the shelf next to me and read it instead of attending to the excruciatingly boring English grammar lesson in progress. (And thank you, Mrs. Schornhorst, for letting me do this, as I'm sure you knew I had this book hidden inside my larger English grammar text.) What did happen to Virginia Dare and all the other hapless colonists abandoned to fate in a trackless wilderness?
James Horn does a creditable job of taking the bits and pieces of what is known, including obscure accounts of Native American oral history, and coming up with a plausible answer to this question. Though his account is not gripping historical writing, it is well-researched and his conclusion sensible. His discourse also leaves one with a less judgmental attitude about John White, who rather than callously abandoning his friends and family to a difficult (and probably tragic) ending, did try to return to them but was thwarted at every turn by both the political realities of the time and the weather.
Though I wouldn't recommend this to the reader with only a casual interest in history, I do think those with a particular interest in North American colonial history will find it interesting. (And who doesn't like the answer to a good unsolved historical mystery, anyway?) As for that long-ago children's biography of Virginia Dare, which was, of necessity, wholly fabricated? Turns out having her grow up with the Indians might not have been far off the mark.
I have a special interest in women's history and the early history of the area in which I have always lived (the greater Ohio Valley in the Midwest).I have a special interest in women's history and the early history of the area in which I have always lived (the greater Ohio Valley in the Midwest). I especially like to read history either in a narrative form or as well-researched historical fiction. This book fit all those criteria, so it was a perfect book for me. That said, I found it a very difficult book to read. The story of the early history of this area (and, indeed, most of the U.S.) is one of violence, greed (both national and individual), political manipulation, and racism. The book focuses on the life of one little-known woman who, in spite of her best efforts, found herself overwhelmed by these forces.
Perhaps because the story does not begin until Nonhelema is well into her forties, or perhaps because she tries exceptionally hard to bridge the divide between the white and native cultures, finding merit and goodness in both, I indentified VERY strongly with her. So much so that I could read only a few chapters before having to take a "fluff break" -- I read 3 romances and one mystery during the course of this book -- before I could continue with her story. Caught up in forces and events far beyond her control, her life -- once one of status and wealth and rich with community -- ends in poverty and obscurity. Saddest of all, her efforts to remain a voice for peaceful co-existence between warring cultures ends with her ostracism from both.
I have read several of Thom's books, and in my opinion, this is not his best. Often, the motivations behind Nonhelema's peace-keeping efforts were not completely clear to me. This may be because the historical record is sketchy, giving Thom fewer clues to work with, or simply because the real Nonhelema's loyalties were so conflicted that the motivations behind her actions were not clear even to herself. I will say that she, at least as Thom has portrayed her, had a markedly unhealthy denial system going for her (or rather, against her) when it came to the reliability of the white legal system, but then I have the value of hindsight, which is always 20/20.
I did like Thom's invention of an entirely fictional character to provide a narrative point-of-view of Nonhelema's story from beginning to end. This character, first seen as a young white man reluctantly going into battle, and later, as an aging physician collecting first person accounts of the historic events of his early life, was a clever way to give the reader some closure to what is essentially the unknown end of Nonhelema's exceptional life....more