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River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize

I Am a Stranger Here Myself

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Winner of the 2020 WILLA Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction from Women Writing the West

Part history, part memoir, I Am a Stranger Here Myself taps dimensions of human the need to belong, the snarl of family history, and embracing womanhood in the patriarchal American West. Gwartney becomes fascinated with the missionary Narcissa Prentiss Whitman, the first Caucasian woman to cross the Rocky Mountains and one of fourteen people killed at the Whitman Mission in 1847 by Cayuse Indians. Whitman's role as a white woman drawn in to "settle" the West reflects the tough-as-nails women in Gwartney's own family. Arranged in four sections as a series of interlocking explorations and ruminations, Gwartney uses Whitman as a touchstone to spin a tightly woven narrative about identity, the power of womanhood, and coming to peace with one's most cherished place.

296 pages, Paperback

First published February 6, 2019

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Debra Gwartney

8 books57 followers

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5 stars
51 (47%)
4 stars
32 (29%)
3 stars
17 (15%)
2 stars
7 (6%)
1 star
1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 37 reviews
March 15, 2019
I picked up this book to learn more about Narcissa Whitman. However, I learned so much more. This fun to read, couldn’t-put-it-down book gave me some insight into myself as a granddaughter, daughter, mother, wife, woman, and dreamer. It gave me permission to look back at my life and ancestry with appreciation and understanding, and look forward to my own life with a new vigor to color outside the family lines.

Gwartney sets her own life against the backdrop of Narcissa Whitman, "the first Caucasian woman to cross the Rocky Mountains and one of the fourteen people killed at the Whitman Mission in 1847 by Cayuse Indians." The author’s narrative of her own life, and her accounts of Whitman’s 1847 mission, brought me a deeper understanding and appreciation of identity, self-worth, and family history. I Am a Stranger Here Myself helped me realize just how badass women must be to move toward new, strange, veer-off-the-chosen-path adventures.

We all have a history that set us on our original path. We all (especially women) carry around in our hearts and heads the expectations of society, church, and family baggage that either allows us to veer from our roots and expectations …or not.

This book tells a story of how society, family, and background influence our lives, decisions, and self-image and it inspired me to appreciate the past and not be afraid to write my own future.

Page 81 spoke to me:
“Mostly I was guided by a desire to be the girl others wanted me to be. I didn’t bother considering what I wanted -or, more accurately, what I wanted wasn’t a consideration I was aware I could entertain There’d be no exploration outside the reality my family had build around me, though adventure is what, I think, some part of me yearned for. Secretly. The secret kept mostly from myself.”
238 reviews1 follower
August 20, 2019
I am in the minority on this one. I did not love it. It is very well written, but it dragged for me. The Whitman story is fascinating. And I could relate to the change in how we view Native Americans today versus the myths we were taught in school and from movies and tv shows.
But, overall, I couldn’t wait for this book to end.
Author 1 book3 followers
April 9, 2019
Debra Gwartney’s I Am A Stranger Here Myself is a courageous, unflinching, and masterfully written probe into history, identity and place. It lays bare the human tendency to assign the primacy of one’s belief system over all other perspectives, regardless of the cost. Gwartney doesn’t make it easy on herself—yoking her path to that of Narcissa Whitman, a rigid, religious zealot, requires Gwartney to examine her own assumptions and judgments; in doing so, she discovers unexpected pockets of connection and compassion. Above all, Gwartney’s dive into Whitman’s life, and into her own family history, allows her to reclaim the heritage that shaped her, and re-mold it to fit her evolving sense of what it means to be a woman of the West.
Profile Image for Jill Sullivan.
1 review4 followers
March 13, 2019
Debra Gwartney’s book is what memoir strives to be—questioning, curious, exploratory and deeply reflective. The writing is fabulous—phrases roll off the page as the author explores what it means to inhabit the West. Braiding her story with that of Narcissa Whitman, an early American missionary who raised the ire of the Native population she was trying to “save,” Gwartney questions both hers and Narcissa’s innermost insecurities, motives, failures and success.

I finished the last page of I Am A Stranger Here Myself and decided to just start it all over again. I loved it so much. As a student of creative nonfiction, I would describe the writing as impeccable. I’m taking about word choice, phrase construction, transitions, asides and how the author crafts suspense. As someone who is learning to write well, it was a thrill to read this book—each page had something to teach me about memoir, story, voice, scene, description, imagery, gestures, humor, character . . .

Here’s what I’m talking about. On page 224:

"My father was there, too, along with his third wife, four years younger than me. We were the graveyard’s only visitors, surrounded by scrawny pine trees, tossed-about plastic flowers, and thigh-high granite headstones poking out of the crusty snow. Up on the hill the wind squirmed under our jackets and past the cuff of our mittens and, because he’d worn his old cowboy hat rather than a knit cap like the rest of us, around the edges of my father’s bright-pink ears.”

While taking notes in the margins, I starred the second half of that paragraph then underlined two verbs and circled an adjective. I paused after reading it the first time because, really, that detail about the wind squirming around the edges of the father’s bright pink ears because he wore a cowboy hat instead of cap. I mean, come on, that is fantastic.

Or how about this part (page 208):

“Hinman was the first in line when Marcus offered a day of river baptisms in the fall of 1844. No Cayuse takers again (eight years running), but there was Alonson, eager for the dunk. Save his soul, dry the man off, give him a teaching job.”

This is so fun to read. So satisfying. And funny. And I love this feeling as a reader that we (the narrator and I) are in agreement and can approach with a subtle irreverent tone and enjoy the misguided but earnest efforts of these missionaries. Their contradictions are rapid and fierce. But it’s as if the narrator reminds us not to judge and then, as if in a whisper, she seems to say Well, at least don’t judge TOO MUCH. I loved it.

And if there is a line I wish to ingrain, I’ll credit the character of Grandpa Bob: “If the man isn’t a son of a bitch, he’ll do until one comes along.”

Here’s one more passage that I felt incapsulated not only I Am A Stranger Here Myself but the story of all humanity. It came on the last page as the narrator confronts a buck who escapes his confinement and takes with him the narrator and Narcissa’s bursting, complex, unresolved tension “into the trees and across streams and up rocky cliffs and far from human confusion. Away from questions and histories and sorrow.” That’s the triptych of the human experience, right? I think it’s what all our stories are about. I, for one, felt my heart expand an extra notch when I read that part.
Profile Image for Stephany Wilkes.
Author 1 book32 followers
April 24, 2020
This book sounds like it will be so quiet, and it is, but it's gorgeously contemplative while being incredibly compelling. I couldn't put it down. I was so caught up in not just the author's personal stories, or Whitman's, but in the stories we tell ourselves.
370 reviews
April 24, 2021
I've always had a fascination with the Whitman missionary story, just like this author. I could have never written about it in the way she has done here ... intertwining with her own path of self-discovery. Really interesting, sometimes frustrating, but it feels like a really authentic memoir.
Profile Image for Kate.
981 reviews6 followers
February 18, 2020
This book is very much about sense of place, the author's growing up in Salmon, Idaho and her rich study of Narcissa Whitman who, in the 1830s, moved from the east to what is now tbe state of Washington.
Profile Image for Melody.
2,629 reviews258 followers
October 19, 2021
I struggled with the authorial voice. Gwartney's family history is nowhere near as compelling as Whitman's. There were piercing moments of self-realization sprinkled throughout and those were enough to keep me reading. But buckle up for privilege if you go in.
Profile Image for Fletcher.
4 reviews
March 17, 2019
I Am a Stranger Here Myself is meant for all who seek a deeper relationship with their ancestry, their community, and themselves.

The story opens with the narrator’s road trip to her grandfather’s funeral in Salmon, Idaho, the small town where she and several generations of family before her were born and raised. On the way, she's tailgated by an impatient Idaho stranger in a big pick up—tailgated all her life by her family’s expectations of who she should be and what she should do with her life. But then she says, “There was no missing the stifle of having your future handed to you like a plate of cold leftovers.”

It was an honor to follow this narrator, this twenty-first-century pioneer, with her distinctive, matter-of-fact voice in her relentless, honest exploration of her identity, especially in a patriarchal world that edges us all towards conformity. We learn of the narrator’s life, the lives of her ancestors, and the lives of those who pioneered the west long ago, most notably, the aspiring missionary and early Idahoan settler, Narcissa Whitman. All these characters came alive along with the times and places they lived, as if lowered like a stage and reenacted before my eyes. Their stories are interwoven seamlessly as the past and present collapse together into a single tense and into a singular woman’s quest to find her place in the world.

In the telling, author, Debra Gwartney, creates masterpiece that subtends many generations and walks of life, this book that defies any single genre—defies any and all that would attempt to tell her story better than she could herself.

Spellbound, I've gone back to read it for the second time.
4 reviews
August 31, 2019
In this engrossing and powerful memoir, Debra Gwartney entwines the incredibly (incredibly) sad story of Narcissa Whitman, a missionary presumed to be the first white woman in Oregon, with her own search for home and belonging. Along the (fascinating) way, Gwartney offers many insights: historical and familial, as well as emotional and psychological.

Among the powerful choices Gwartney makes is to examine her thoughts and prejudices and predetermined (and often quite pejorative) ideas about Narcissa Whitman— this allows her to examine her predetermined ideas (predetermined by whom?) about herself. In the process, she teases out what it is, then, to belong: to a culture (which in her case includes the idea of what is to be a “western woman),” to a family, and to oneself.

And all of this is done in beautiful, luminous prose. Two examples: "Salmon is snugged into a valley, cupped by the Bitterroots, the Beaverheads, under a sky that fools you into thinking you are slung into the interior of an egg. I was held in just that way for a long time, believing the town had an innate ability to deliver up the truth about who I am."


"... Loneliness bubbling up from an empty place in side of me. It has to do with growing up in what many still consider the deep backcountry, in a family steeped in the mythology of the West, square-backed men who were the embodiment of patriarchy and tough women who mostly kept trouble to themselves..."

A rich and deeply engrossing read. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Debbie Hagan.
117 reviews
April 17, 2019
This book blends two of my favorite reading genres, history and memoir. Debra Gwartney weaves her personal story, growing up in Idaho, with the story of Marcus and Narcissa Prentiss Whitman who in the early nineteenth century set out on a dangerous trip, in a wagon, heading over the Rocky Mountains with an idealist objective in mind. They will set up a missionary camp and save the natives by converting them to Christianity. They establish the Whitman Mission and begin preaching to the Cayuse; however, their proselytizing has grim consequences. The Cayuse become agitated by encroachment of white people on their land, spreading diseases that kill their children, in addition to Narcissa's "haughtiness" and constant insistence that they must worship the white man's God or face eternal damnation. Thus, they raid the camp, in 1847, killing the Whitmans as well as twelve others. Gwartney is skillful in reconstructing this historically important story (the facts about which seem largely buried today and often misconstrued or inaccurately reported). Thus, we follow Debra Gwartney as she researches this history and, in doing so, reflects on her own life, which enables the reader to have a deeper, emotional understanding of place, life in the early frontier, and living in the wild. Skillfully done.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
39 reviews
December 18, 2021
One of my favorite books this year! I couldn’t put it down. Gwartney does a magnificent job of interacting her own international story with her scholarship about Narcissa Whitman and her missionary group.
55 reviews
March 6, 2021
I read right through this book, fascinated by the many connections it had with my life (age, places I’ve lived or been, my Idaho raised parents and husband). However (since you’ve seen the number of stars I rate it): I repeatedly had the impression the author was trying to take a small amount of material and stretch it out into a book. I loved the details that described both her family and the Oregon events but felt like she was reaching for writerly flourishes while I wanted more of the story.
I appreciated the way Gwartney acknowledged her family’s racist relationship to the people who lived in Idaho before the settlers arrived. I’m not sure she realized how much her family must have been at the top of the social hierarchy in a small Idaho town. I was a little too fascinated by her revelations of how a socially powerful family can mess its members up.
Profile Image for Dorothy Rice.
Author 2 books20 followers
September 23, 2020
In Debra Gwartney's award-winning "I Am a Stranger Here Myself," the author twines her own personal history with a fascinating and divisive historical figure, Narcissa Prentiss Whitney, a strident missionary and the first white woman to cross the Rocky Mountains from the "civilized" east. Her unusual and ambitious hybrid memoir/biography is skillfully crafted, researched, and structured. It is also a deeply rewarding memoir on multiple levels. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Wally Wood.
139 reviews4 followers
June 11, 2019
Debra Gwartney's I Am a Stranger Here Myself is a memoir, a history, and a meditation. It is extraordinary and in the month between reading it and writing this, I've recommended it to a dozen people. One of my fears, in fact, is that I will praise it so fulsomely that readers who pick up the book will inevitably be disappointed.

Gwartney (says the publisher's news release) is the author of Live Through This: A Mother's Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love, a finalist for the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award. She is the coeditor of Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape. She teaches in Pacific University's MFA in Writing program and lives in Western Oregon.

She is a fifth generation Idahoan, someone who grew up in a family that embraced certain Western values: "Keep the government out and the guns close by. Remember that the land is your land to use as you want. Tromp into the woods, camp in the wilderness . . . . Let no strangers in," These are values Gwartney rejects entirely as a late-middle-aged white and left-leaning woman. The tension between her childhood in small-town Idaho and her adult awareness of impact of the white settlers and US Government on the land runs as a thread through the book.

She evokes her childhood. Her father impregnated her sixteen-year-old mother when he was fifteen. They married and apparently the two sets of grandparents loathed each other. Her father managed to move the family out of Salmon (pop. 3,000) to Boise, "so he could become the family's first executive for a corporation; he was the first man in our clan to toss off terms like pension and stock options."

But Gwartney weaves into the memoir the history of Narcissa Prentiss Whitman, "the first Caucasian woman (so say the history books) to cross the Rocky Mountains, the first white woman to give birth to a white baby on the frontier (same history books). A missionary killed by the people she aimed to convert—her death, some say, changing the course of the settling of the West."

In 1836, Narcissa and her husband Marcus set up a mission along the Oregon Trail about eight miles from current day Walla Walla, Washington, in the Columbia River basin. They had come to bring Christianity to the Cayuse Indians and to provide a rest stop for settlers continuing west. Marcus named the mission Waiilatpu, "home of the ryegrass people," to honor the Native people whose traditional grounds he and Narcissa settled on. Gwartne writes, "Tall grasses and bullrushes--tule sedge that the Cayuse used primarily to cover their long houses—were imperative to the tribe's way of life, a fact that Marcus, in what strikes me as one of his first acts of colonial indifference, ignored." He burned the grass, churned the soil, planted a garden, established an orchard, and sowed acre after acre of wheat to provide for the mission.

To discourage the Cayuse from taking the melons from the garden the Whitman's coated the melons with a drug that made the Indians sick. Worse, Marcus presented himself as a doctor, but he could do nothing to save the Indian children who died from the measles that came with the settlers. After nine years, the Whitman's had not converted a single Indian, and in 1847 a small band of Cayuse attacked the mission, killing Narcissa, Marcus, two girls, and a dozen men and boys.

Aside from relating key events in her life (almost dying on a Salmon River rafting trip; her father's recover after being crushed by a horse) and the inherent interest in Narcissa's history, I Am a Stranger Here Myself is wonderfully well written. Here, taken at random, is an example:

"In her journals and letters home, Narcissa, without a waver, asserts that she and Marcus were doing exactly what was necessary to teach the Cayuse a different way of being. The Cayuse had little interest in such instruction, but Narcissa went on instructing, and she went on insisting, for one thing, on a new notion of boundaries. Narcissa, like my great-grandmother Hazel would some sixty-some years later, stashed a rifle on the porch to warn Native people away front door and vegetable patch, and in the permanent house that Marcus finally did build to replace their first sod dwelling, she made sure an 'Indian room' was tacked on toward the back, the one space the Cayuse (though only those dressed in western clothing and recently bathed) were allowed to enter, to keep their muddy feet and sticky hands, their stinking bodies, from her parlor."

I Am a Stranger Here Myself is a moving and powerful corrective to the heroic story of the dauntless pioneers who Won the West. Gwartney, her Idaho family, Narcissa and Marcus a human beings, strangers in a strange land, as are we all.
Profile Image for Suzanne Mccandless.
141 reviews3 followers
May 26, 2023
What an unusual book! I don't think I have ever read a book that mixed the author's own life with that of a historical figure. Gwartney studies the life of Narcissa Whitman, the first white woman to settle Idaho, and parallels her own history as some one who is a fifth generation Idahoan.

Gwartney comes across as being to me at least as someone who is dissatisfied with her life and certainly very critical of her subject, Narcissa. How were they alike? Both spent much of life trying to please her father . Narcissa, to please her father, enters into an unhappy marriage and travels to the West to become a missionary to the Native Americans. She was totally unhappy in this arrangement, but was trapped. Gwartney as a modern woman had many more choices but postponed choices to follow the life that she thought was expected of her. She is totally critical of Narcissa at first, but as she learns more becomes more understanding and I think comes to understand herself as well.

The writing is first rate. Word choice was commendable . The wind squirmed under hats, earth is not plowed, but churned. Her horror at the items in an attic caught in just one word, "Goodness!"
She inserts many asides, as though she's just telling you the story over a cup of coffee.

I was reminded of another book, THE HERO OF THIS BOOK, by Elizabeth McCraken, where fiction and memoir are mixed. Both challenge the read to think differently about literature and its aim. Hurrah for the original style.
Profile Image for Marcy.
297 reviews26 followers
November 14, 2020
I really enjoyed reading this book; while it took me a while to get through, it had more to do with picking it up as a new mother and less to do with the book being a slog or anything of the sort. I didn't know anything about Narcissa Whitman before reading this; a friend recommended it to me (and in fact sent me a copy). But the description left me intrigued, less due to her story than the author's. Once I was a couple chapters in, I was thoroughly hooked on the stories of both of these Women of the West. It was interesting reading about Narcissa and what the author could share about her life and what she did as a missionary amongst the Cayuse, a mother and then adoptive mother, and as a woman in that area, in that era. But it was also fascinating to read about Gwartney's life, her relationship with members of her family and her family's background, and her observations about Narcissa Whitman and observations about those observations, how Gwartney's lived experience influenced what she believed about Narcissa and how it built the picture of Narcissa that Gwartney carried in her mind.

I felt like I saw a bit of myself in the author, and as a result felt a connection to Narcissa Whitman even though I likely wouldn't have if I had just read a biography about her as a stand-alone.
Profile Image for Stuart E.
35 reviews
April 15, 2020
Really annoyed that this site doesn't allow me to give things half stars, because in my opinion this book is a great example of a middle of the road 5/10. This isn't to say it doesn't have any merits: Gwartney's prose is often nice and I think that what she's striving for with this memoir/historical nonfiction novel hybrid is rather unique and striking. The central idea of Gwartney sorting out her own identity while exploring the identity of Narcissa Whitman is interesting... That being said, I don't love this thing structurally. The four parts feel rather arbitrary, as do many of the chapter orderings. Sometimes the historical and memoir sections connect in clear and seamless ways, other times their placement feels haphazard and unclear. Also, for as much as I like the idea of this novel, I feel like Gwartney's self-criticism of her historical research and self-projection onto Narcissa is rather surface level. It constantly feels like she's about to get to her main point, but then backs away because she still hasn't completely grappled with how she's been projecting herself onto her version of Narcissa Whitman. I don't know, it's not bad, but I often found it frustrating and slow.
Profile Image for Janis Williams.
209 reviews1 follower
June 25, 2020
The first line: "A man is following me on US-93 in Idaho, his red truck a fire-cracker in my rearview mirror." Writers of memoir look in the rearview mirror. We all do. That is where we think we can reliably go for facts. It has been lived and, we believe, is no longer a mystery. But in fact, it is the undiscovered country. Gwartnery's excellent book weaves her memories as a misfit in a family of rugged indivualist, tamers of the land, with lore and historical facts about Narcissa Whitman. I grew up with the lore of that woman. All of us boomer girls in the far west, were given her story as a lantern to guide us.

If you are fed by fine writing, engaging storytelling, and family drama that does not include the horror show detailed in 'Educated,' another Idaho memoir, you should buy this book and salute the author.
Profile Image for Sara Van Dyck.
Author 6 books12 followers
September 30, 2021
Gartney’s account is not the stuff of the typical memoir – no famous relative, no family secrets, no addictions. Instead she offers stories from her conflicted yet close family rooted in Idaho for five generations. Along with these she tracks her research into the fate of Narcissa Whitman, a pioneer missionary in what was then the Oregon Territory, who was massacred along with her family by local Indians in 1847. What brings this book to life is her intimate, compassionate view of her subjects, including Narcissa, who is certainly no model. In these subjects, especially her grandmothers, Gartney sees people who are stalwart, who stick it out, who are loyal. Gwartney leaves the area, leaves their way of life, but she writes lovingly of the women who helped to shape her as a woman of the West.

Profile Image for Sue.
Author 16 books28 followers
April 12, 2021
As at the end of a good meal, I sigh. Gwartney, too often known only as the late Barry Lopez’s wife, has established her place in non-fiction with this intertwining of history and memoir She tells the story of early Northwest missionary settler Narcissa Whitman with all the Old West romanticism stripped away. The history is fascinating, as is the back story of trying to find out what really happened, but so is Gwartney’s own story of growing up in tiny Salmon Idaho and struggling to find her place in her family and community as an adult. Can you go home again? Was Narcissa misguided or a monster? How can we gloss over the terrible things the western settlers did to the Native Americans? Will Debra’s family ever understand who she really is? This is a wonderful book.
April 5, 2019
I Am a Stranger Here Myself is my favorite kind of memoir. It’s both an unflinchingly honest personal story and an important slice of history. The two parts are woven together, sharing Gwartney’s masterful lens, which considers and reconsiders, looking at her own story and the story of Narcissa Whitman from many possible angles. The result is complex and rich and gorgeously written. I gobbled it up, and I learned, too, about the Pacific Northwest’s true history and about my own identity as a woman of this region. Thank you Debra Gwartney for your contribution to the Northwest canon. I Am a Stranger Here Myself should be used in both writing classes and history classes for years to come.
Profile Image for Jeff.
239 reviews1 follower
June 10, 2019
I really liked this memoir by Oregon author Gwartney, who somehow successfully juxtaposes her own ambivalence as a 5th-generation Idahoan with the life of another woman of the West, pioneer missionary Narcissa Whitman. Separated by more than a century in time, both women feel ill-suited to the expectations placed upon them by family and society. Gwartney also explores the 7 Sager orphans who were adopted by the Whitmans after their parents died on the Oregon Trail. I remember my own parents reading aloud the highly fictionalized account of the Sager children’s ordeal (Honore Morrow’s “On to Oregon!”) when my siblings and I were young.
Profile Image for Emilee.
8 reviews
August 16, 2019
This memoir is beautifully written. I loved being able to learn about the Whitman mission and the people whose choices changed history beyond what my daughter learned in her 4th grade history lessons. Gwartney's exploration of Narcissa Whitman's life and reflection on her own life as a Western woman gave me a lot to think about. I live in Idaho and I both love and it and feel out of place in it at the same time. Gwartney's memoir has given me the courage to claim this state as my home even though I don't fit the mold of the typical Idahoan. I highly recommend this compelling, reflective, and beautifully written memoir.
7 reviews
December 2, 2020
Give yourself some much-needed respite from these troubling times by diving into Debra Gwartney’s new memoir "I’m a Stranger Here Myself." As a poet, I appreciated the lyricism in her writing and the raw and compelling sense of place that was evoked as she braided her own history with an exploration of Narcissa Whitman. The moral issues that weave through the memoir are fearlessly examined. In particular, Debra’s courage in exploring her own history and motivation was moving to me as a psychologist. There is much to learn in this book, not only about Debra and Narcissa but about our own connection to family, history and place. Get ready for a journey!

Profile Image for Allison.
324 reviews4 followers
August 15, 2019
4.5 stars. This literary memoir about what it means to be a "Woman of The West" interweaves personal biographical experiences with reflections and research on Narcissa Whitman, one of the first white women to settle in the Oregon Territory. It explores deeply the process of how historical figures, and even different generations within our own families, can be judged--perhaps unfairly--by different standards and assumptions.
I really can't compare this to anything I've ever read before. Very thought-provoking.
Profile Image for Joanne.
254 reviews2 followers
December 31, 2019
Wonder integration of history and memoir. After visiting Walla Walla for 9 years in a row while I had a son and daughter in school there, it was good to hear the truth of the difficult history settled that beautiful area. I don't know if I can ever understand the belief that white settlers had that they had the only true religion, they were superior humans, and that they had the right just take land, resources and natives for themselves.
Profile Image for Jackson.
1,693 reviews
July 21, 2020
I liked reading about the author's life, but her obsession with Narcissa Whitman puts a crimp in things, since this was one of the titles I thought was going to be about Nez Perce history from a point of view more sympathetic to the Native Americans. Even when I scold myself that the times were different from now, and people did not know better, I am still amazed at what seems to me to be the lack of Christian love, it's like Christianity is a power. And yet, sincere author ...
241 reviews2 followers
September 7, 2022
Though my roots are in New England, I was enthralled by Debra Gwartney’s braid of 19th century Idaho history, family stories, and her own—a history-memoir hybrid. “We are at times, hardwired by our own histories to act in ways we spend the rest of our lives desperately untangling,” she writes. Gwartney focuses on the bits and pieces of insight one gains on a journey like this. Fascinating, surprising, and engaging.
Profile Image for Corinne.
192 reviews
March 23, 2023
"I don't exactly get to be appalled by this, my family's former or current xenophobia. Not as long as I'm the beneficiar1y of their way of life. The truth is, I have thrived because of what my family made in the West from the 1860s until now." p 52

"Something about the impulse to go, to discover the untamed corner of the county no matter the cost. The ache to be someone different in a brand-new place. A new you reinvented by the old you." p193
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