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I know some about settler colonialism and the genocidal practices of the U.S. against Native Americans, but I don't know enough. This book would have made an excellent textbook in an introductory Indigenous Studies course - lots of specific information, an authoritative tone, good discussions of methodology. As an audiobook, though, there wasn't enough story to really gain traction. Without characters or even units on specific groups or regions to hang all this new information on, I was left floundering in a sea of genocide and horrors. Probably much like early indigenous communities...
The narrator did not help this much. Every sentence is read with the same urgency and earnestness. All facts are equally weighted. There's no vocal signaling that we have reached the middle or end of any story. I understand that the topic is very serious and important, but I can't really hang onto the topic when there's no variation in the tone.
43 of 44 people found this review helpful
First of all, let me state... I probably agree with over 90% of the information that the author presents. That's not to say I have any great insight, but rather most of what is presented here can be found in other, better written and more entertaining, books. The history of this country is steeped in genocide, no question.
Where it goes wrong is the petulant, and often disingenuous, accounts of the less than glorious history of the United States of America. That name being the first childish line in the sand for the author. A steadfast refusal to call the country America, or the people American, despite the fact that it's the only country with that word in its official title. Do we call Mexico, Estados Unidos? Or Brazil, República Federativa? Even by general use anywhere around the world, for better or worse, everyone understands what American means, and it's not Simon Bolivar, a legendary and heroic South American. Yet, these people are referred to as separatists or settlers, as if the history can be erased by stripping the oppressors of their name. It's all the more hypocritical as the name Indian is accepted by resignation as not worth the effort to fight.
Once more, let me reiterate. The information is almost entirely true! But it risks the worst possible result, which is through it's propagandist tone, allowing right wing yahoos to criticize, leave 1 star reviews, with comments to the effect that all things white are bad, all things red, brown and black are great. Well... that, while certainly not entirely true, is a large part of the the story. Introducing Sam Houston as an alcoholic settler war-hero hardly gives the listener any assurance of a scholarly work. By all means, put the boots to him, and Andrew Jackson, and John Chivington and George Armstrong Custer. SOBs, the lot of them! But the true, accurate stories of these men and their deeds is damning enough! I admire Black Kettle, Red Cloud and Crazy Horse as much as anyone, and they were by no means responsible for the genocidal acts of the American government and the 7th Cavalry, but they were not without flaws. The humanity of the indigineous peoples is sadly underrepresented in this book.
Overall, the biggest problem is that the author states up front that this is meant to be an objective account of history of the country. It's about as objective as Fox News is fair and balanced. It's telling people the only truth they only want to hear, and it comes off just as shrill. It's a perfect book for a young adult, newly released from their childlike naivete, having learned their parents and society has lied to them, about virtually everything. There's a righteous outrage in the story, and in the narrator's voice (which I suppose is a positive, in accurately capturing the vitriol). But just don't act like it's telling the full story. Inaccuracies, particularly in European histories, and the complete lack of any unflattering characteristics of Incas, Mayans, Aztecs, Comanches, etc. gives it the distinct feeling of kool-aid expected to be drunk. At one point, a mesoamerican city is described as Bigger than London! Okay, so it must be great, then.
By all means, listen or read this book. Then check out more scholarly works with more nuanced history, and less spleen-venting. Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors, and The True Flag, are books I'd highly recommend for some of the episodes of American genocide and imperialism.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful