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)....moreI 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.(less)
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 thou...moreMy 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!)
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 the...moreI 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! (less)
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 that...moreI 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!(less)
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 r...moreThis 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'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 Alex...moreI'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? (-: (less)
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 while...moreI 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.(less)