Formidable author Joseph Bruchac has pulled off an extraordinary feat with "One Real American." Bruchac presents an immense amount of historical research, fact, and sources in this concise book that I hope will be used by schools as a supplement to the often white-washed version of history most youth are exposed to. While it might be easy to get bogged down in the detailed facts (this was always my struggle with history books), Bruchac does a great job of articulating what the takeaway is from all of the sections he write about, which was really helpful, even for me as an adult reader!
I love the emphasis Bruchac places on ensuring that the reader knows that Parker truly walked in two worlds. There were challenges to this, but also great pride. Other documents and stories about Parker seem to focus on his "Americanness," telling about his military accomplishments and perhaps delving into his education. But what often gets left out is that he also remained firmly rooted in his Seneca community. He was an engineer, attorney, diplomat, and officer in the U.S. Army, and none of that was at odds with his trial affiliation and identity. I think this is imperative for non-Indigenous and Indigenous youth alike to recognize and understand. Our country has not often focused on retained, resilient, deep connections to non-white communities, but that does a great disservice to our youth. By being able to see the accomplishments, communities, and connections Parker made and retained, we are able to focus not just on his role as a military officer but also on the ways in which he supported and was informed by his own community.
It was also interesting to see how Bruchac addresses the perception of Parker from within his community, the ways he defended Native peoples, and also some of the challenges that stemmed from the work he did with the Army. This was expertly written, had a nice balance of heavily historical facts with some narrative highlights mixed in so the reader can really track and synthesize all of that information, and also has a very helpful timeline at the end to guide how we read the text.
I will continue to refer to this book! I can see it being used throughout the country in schools; I know I can't wait to share it with my kids when they're a little older. I will definitely be gifting this to some of the older elementary and middle-school-aged kiddos in my life, as I think this is a great way to revise the focus and representation in American history. I'm so glad I got the chance to read "One Real American." Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for this advance e-copy!