Sunday, May 20, 2007

Book Review: One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd

May 20, 2007

This book was not what I was expecting. I must not have read the reviews carefully enough, for I believed this to be a nonfiction account of a little-known part of American history. Actually, this “historical” account never happened, as author Jim Fergus quite clearly states in his introduction. Apparently a Cheyenne chief suggested to an Army officer, sometime in the 1870s, that 1000 white women might be traded for 1000 horses; but the chief’s offer was met with scorn and dismissed. This book is a “what if” story: what if the U.S. government had agreed to provide 1000 white brides in exchange for 1000 horses, so that the American Indian and white American cultures might start to be blended?

The premise of the book sounded promising, but I have to give this book a “blech” rating. It had its moments: the writing was good and the characters interesting and some quite likeable; however, the author was too crass for my taste. My favorite chapter was probably the last, written as if it were penned by the monk, Father Anthony. Here the writing was gentle and lyrical, something I appreciate and admire much more than the “shock value” technique the author uses throughout much of the book. If this were truly nonfiction, I might recommend it for its enlightenment of a historical period; but as a work of fiction, I’d skip it.

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