Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Yada, yada, yada.

There's been a boy around my house a lot lately. He's got a lot going for him.

Since last September, he's fed me Chinese, Mexican, or Applebees on an almost weekly basis.

He knows the difference between Coke and Pepsi - and he knows that if he ever dares to bring me Coke I'll probably smack him.

He knows which select Disney songs I'll sing along to and he plays them practically incessantly.

He finally understands that when I ask him which shoes match my dress best, I'm serious, and if he doesn't answer me I really will follow him around the house until he makes a decision (and I'm also serious when I ask him to smell my shirt and tell me if it smells like wet laundry).

He knows better than to take my word for it when I say, "Oh yeah, I know how to get there," and he GoogleMaps it for me anyway.

He's adjusting to the fact that even if I'm totally not hungry, if he's got food I'm stealing some of it.

He's pretty much a professional at getting me to stop chattering and do my homework, and he keeps track of how much I have to do each week so I don't forget anything.

He's coming to terms with my intense hatred for meatloaf even though it's his favorite.

He knows that I will always, always order something way too spicy for my taste buds - just because it looks good on the menu, and he makes sure the waiter brings a glass of milk for me when I set my mouth on fire (after he warns me repeatedly that jalepenos are still too spicy for me).

He sits through hours of NCIS and Blue Bloods and Simon and Simon - even though they all bore him practically to death.

He pays attention and brings my mom presents on her birthday - but he won't let her feed him potato chips yet because he's too tough and macho man for that still.

He knows that when I'm upset, asking me what's wrong will probably earn him the death glare - but he does it anyway because "you don't make sense."

He knows the difference between my sad cry and my happy cry.

He knows that when I was five I had the biggest, most embarrassing crush on the guy who is now our best friend (well he's always been my best friend but y'know I'm better at sharing now.).

He knows how quickly my feelings get hurt and he's felt the sharp end of my tongue on more than one occasion.

He knows that I'm mostly just a lot of noise and sparks for about 45 seconds, but I fizzle out after that burst of anger and not much damage is typically sustained.

He knows that I can out-eat him anywhere except at a Chinese restaurant, and he knows that if he asks what I want to eat the answer will probably be Subway or pizza.

He brings me coffee from the gas station down the street every single Sunday morning. He's even started adding creamer for me (I have yet to convince him that all creamers are not equal though).

He's been there through every step of my college education so far, and he pushed me almost as hard as my parents - and he didn't flinch when I told him that in five months I want to move eight hours away to go to a new school.

He knows me.

He loves me.

But guess what?

He does not yada me.

Yada is the Greek word for God's deep, intimate, loving knowledge of us. The kind of intimacy that knows every hair on my head and the exact spot where it changes from my awkward brownish roots to the beach-blonde that I'm still trying to grow out. The kind of intimacy that goes beyond just listening to the complicated emotional strain going on in my family - the kind of intimacy that already knows and understands and sees an ending.

The kind of intimacy that wrote my entire story and knows the ending lines by heart.

I cannot fathom that. I can barely fathom the love of this boy that I hold so dear.

The thought that there is a greater love than this just blows my mind.

And that's a happy place to be.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Am Writing

I've decided to do something new with this today - an "Am Writing" post once a week. I'll share a chapter of whatever I'm writing with you guys, and if there's a particular chapter you want more of, let me know in the comments and I'll make it happen. Here's the first one!

Chapter One

"Chto oni tam stroyat?" A little girl's blue eyes squinted through the snow as she pointed a chubby finger across the street.
Her mother frowned. "English, small one. My daughter will speak English."
The child crossed her arms. "YA russkiy! YA govoryu po-russkiy!"
"You may be Russian-born, Anne, but you are not true Russian. You are American. You speak English. Try again."
Anne sighed. "Mama. What are they building over there?"
"That's my girl. And I don't know. Why don't we go ask?"
The two stepped out into the street, dodging between the many cars of Sochi, Russia. Neither of them were Russian-blooded, yet here they were, walking and talking among the Russians as though they belonged. They approached the construction workers and conversed with them in fluent Russian – the project was a new café, run by Americans, and it was set to open next week so the worker couldn't stand around and chat.
"Americans!" Anne squealed when they were safely away from the site. "Mama, mama, Americans!"
"Yes love," her mother answered, without much enthusiasm. Her face was clouded and dark. "Americans..." She breathed. "We have to call Daddy."

"Attention passengers, we are preparing to land in Moscow. Please fasten your seatbelts and wait for further instruction for ELEPHANT. Enjoy your stay."
There were six Americans on board International Flight 364 to Moscow – six Americans who did not know each other and did not intend to know each other. They all disembarked in silence, heads down, white-knuckling their carry-ons. They hailed six individual taxis to six individual hotels and thought no more of their fellow Americans.

Noah sank into the chair by his bed with a sigh. He reached into his vest and pulled out a folded sheet of cream-colored paper, searching it for any clues he might have missed in the seventeen times he'd perused it before.

My esteemed comrade,
There is a matter of great importance to our national security that requires your attention. You will board International Flight 364 to Moscow, Russia, on May 14th of this year. Then you will take a taxi to Sochi and check into the Villa Atmosphera under the name of Jon Rohan. Speak to no one about this. Trust no one. On May 16th, report to Hill Valley at 9 A.M. for further instructions. Black out sensitive information in this letter before going through security, and bring this letter as proof of identity. You will be paid well if you complete this mission.
Do not speak to anyone of this matter. Your silence is key.
Shawn Clancey, Head of Security

Noah sighed again, checking his watch. Thirteen hours until the rendezvous. Thirteen hours until he would perhaps have some answers as to why on earth he was yanked out of his office at FBI headquarters and plopped on a plane to Russia for who-knows-how-long to do who-knows-what. He was a computer tech, for gosh sakes, not a spy. And the signature on the letter? He'd never seen that name before in his life. For all he knew, he could be working for a terrorist group that had somehow hijacked the White House's official letterhead. It might be a crazy thought, but not impossible. He wished he hadn't thought of it. The engineer tucked the letter back in his pocket and crawled into bed, barely pausing to kick off his shoes.
For all the jet-lag he was feeling, he didn't sleep a wink that night.

Neither did the other five Americans in Sochi. They had all received the same letter, but with different hotel check-ins and rendezvous points. And of course, none of them knew of the other letters.

Mack slipped her hand under her coat as she strolled casually down the street towards her rendezvous, her fingers wrapped around the handle of her Glock. It wasn't her preferred weapon, but it was the only one that she could easily conceal under a jacket. The M-40 bolt action was her baby – it just didn't fit under her coat. Not that that was stopping her from going in armed. Until she knew exactly what she was up against, there was no way this Marine Corps Scout Sniper was walking into a rendezvous without some sort of ammo. She knew just how much red tape had to be cut to pull a Marine out of a tour, and since she'd been on her second tour of Afghanistan when she received the letter and direct orders from her CO to fly home and get on the flight, her guard was definitely up.
"Mackenzy?" The man wore a tux and stood in the doorway of the tiny, square building.
"Marine Corps Scout Sniper McCullough, sir," she replied, not even trying to mask the sass in her voice. She'd worked her tail off for that title and she wasn't about to let him skip out on the formalities.
"Of course. You have the letter?"
She paused for the briefest of seconds. "Sir, I'm going to need to see some identification first."
He raised an eyebrow before reaching into his vest for a black leather book-like object. He flipped it open to reveal a shiny gold badge with the words "Federal Bureau of Investigation" on it. "Happy?"
Mack snorted. "Not hardly. Agent number, please."
The man sighed loudly before rattling off a string of numbers than Mack quickly typed into her phone. "What are you doing?" He demanded.
"I've created an inventory of valid agent number for the FBI. I'm checking yours," she replied coolly.
Apparently, his number checked out, because she handed him a folded, creamy piece of paper. "What's this all about, Agent Harold?"
The agent shrugged. "I was just told not to let anybody in if their name wasn't on the list. You're to go in and wait for the contact here."
Mack nodded. "Will you be waiting here?"
"Sorry, but no. I have orders to be here at certain times and then leave. You'll be on your own. Not that I think you'll have any trouble," he added. "You seem like the kind of girl who can handle herself."
She nodded, tongue in cheek. If you only knew, she thought to herself. Aloud she said, "I'll be fine," and slipped past him into the small building.

An hour prior, another woman had stood where Mack was standing – with an almost identical expression on her face. "A....coffee shop?" She whispered.
Stainless steel counters ran around the front half of the small room, more steel cupboards beneath them and bright sparkling machines on top of them. The other half of the room was filled with more steel – steel refrigerators bigger than any she'd seen before. Steel shelves reaching to the ceiling, packed with glass boxes of small brown beans – or colorful boxes of some sort of fruit puree – or silver bags stacked so high they threatened to slip off and explode on the (you guessed it) steel floor.
The woman frowned. "This doesn't make sense."
I smiled from where I stood in the doorway, just behind her. "I didn't promise to make sense."
She whirled, a small taser appearing her hand, a red bead on my chest.
I snorted. "And Harold said you weren't armed."
"Who the – who are you?" Her voice was steady but shot through with pent-up emotion.
"Call me Shawn," I replied, extending a hand. "I don't appreciate it when people attempt to take my life," I added, with a glance at the taser she still aimed at me.
The long-haired Latina narrowed her eyes, but lowered the weapon. "I'm -"
I cut her off. "Jordan Ramirez. I know. I also know you're the Navy's top criminal psychologist. And I know you've never seen action, which is why that taser has all the power of a Home Depot screwdriver."
Jordan's cheeks flushed.
"It's okay. It was a good thought. And I'm impressed that you got it through security with your limited weapons knowledge."
She flipped her hair back. "I might not know much about weapons, but I know a bit about the human mind and I'm quite good at playing games. This one is boring. Why am I here?"
I couldn't hold back a smile. "They said you were direct. I should have listened. I'm sorry about all the secrets. This is a very sensitive situation."
"Yeah, well, I'm very sensitive about keeping my head attached to my shoulders, so if this is going to threaten that then count me out," she snapped.
"Easy, easy. I didn't say it was life-threatening."
"You didn't say it was, either, and that's more important."
"Little spitfire, are you?" I laughed out loud this time. "I just need your skills for a few days, maybe a couple of weeks. Then you can go home to your cozy little office and squeeze stress balls all you want."
"What do you need my skills for?" She wasn't going to relax, I could tell that much now.
"You're posing as a barista here – at a new café. You're a college student studying abroad. Your major is government."
"Do you actually think a government major would take a study abroad program in Russia?" Now she was laughing at me. "That's the dumbest – that's ridiculous."
"Do you speak Russian?" I asked.
"Of course not. I'm a psychologist, not a translator."
"Then focus on learning how to be a barista, and let me take care of the rest."
"Yeah, about that. I don't even drink coffee. Is this the best you could do?"
"You don't have to drink it. Just make it. And your training starts tomorrow for that. You'll be working with five others. Do not trust them. You are here to do one thing: get close to the ambassador. He is suspected of leaking information to Russian authorities and conspiring against the President. I want you to collect all the intel you can about him. It doesn't have to be intense. Just tell me if you think he's involved." I pushed myself off the doorframe I'd been leaning on. "Savvy?"
"What authority do you have?"
I sighed. "I can't disclose that information. I need you to trust me."
"But I can't trust anyone else. Just you. Because it's convenient for you."
In one swift movement, I had one hand against her throat in a kung fu style block and my Glock pressed against her forehead. "I think it's more convenient for you to trust me than it is for me to trust you."
Her eyes were wide. "Sure. Okay."
"Be here at nine tomorrow morning for training. Do not contact me. I will find you when I need you." I released her, returned my gun to its holster, and left her standing in the middle of the café, still stunned.
So it went with the other five.

Faulkner's Fury: An Essay

Women and their sexuality have been a focus in our world for centuries, although it seems that lately this issue has become more prevalent and obvious. Perhaps the most apparent example is the recent #MeToo Movement, as well as the Larry Nassar trial. But are we truly the first to notice the obsession with women's sex lives? A close reading of William Faulkner's The Sound and The Fury would indicate otherwise. His fourth novel, in which he introduced his beloved Caddy Compson, can hardly be read without noticing the intensity of Faulkner's focus on women's sexuality. He demonstrates this in many ways, but primarily through the eyes of Caddy's three brothers: Benjy, Quentin, and Jason. All three of her brothers have an individual take on their sister's virginity and sexual actions, and Faulkner uses these individuals and others to show us just how clearly The Sound and The Fury is written to address men's obsession with women's sexuality. 
The first section of the book is told from the perspective of Caddy's special-needs brother, Benjy. Benjy is described as deaf and dumb, with the mind of a child (Faulkner 56). In the setting of The Sound and The Fury, which happens to be the early 1900s, special-needs children were often treated quite terribly. In fact, Benjy is kicked out of the Compson house and is sent down to live with Dilsey, the family's housekeeper-of-sorts. His name is also changed from Maury to Benjamin at that time, as his mother basically tries to pretend that he isn't even her child. Because of this, Caddy steps up to become Benjy's second mother. And Caddy truly loves Benjy – she sticks up for him, she entertains him, and she understands him like nobody else in the family seems to. Benjy loves Caddy, too, and perhaps he's the only character in the story who really loves her for just who she is. He is, of course, very aware of her, and he is aware of her sexuality as well, but because of how childlike he is, he cannot judge her for that. During his section of the book, he takes us on a very wild ride through his present day and a myriad of memories of Caddy, but an important note is his observation of her scent: over and over, Benjy notes that she smells like trees. Our dear boy has many memories of Caddy and his brothers playing with him in the trees, and her woodsy scent may remind him of those happy times with her. However, as Caddy becomes sexually active and loses that pure, childlike innocence, Benjy notes that suddenly she does not smell like trees. One night, Benjy is inconsolable and Caddy tries to comfort him by giving him some of his favorite toys, but every time she goes away he begins to cry again. Finally, she takes him into her room where she is presumably getting ready for a date, and she hands him a bottle of perfume to smell, thinking he will be calmed by the sweet aroma. Instead, he cries harder – and then she realizes that the perfume frightens him – she no longer smells like his Caddy; she smells like a grown-up (Faulkner 48). Right away, she gives Benjy the bottle of perfume (her own bottle) and they go downstairs so that he can give the bottle away to Dilsey. That bottle of perfume was part of her "growing up," and part of her becoming a young woman with a certain degree of sexuality, but she gave it up for Benjy because it upset him. Did it upset him because he didn't want her to express the sexuality budding within her? Not at all. It upset him because she didn't smell like his Caddy anymore. Benjy's view of her sexuality is totally non-judgmental; rather, it only affects him because he loves her, and her new womanliness is changing the Caddy he knows into someone unfamiliar and very frightening. To Benjy, Caddy is an angel, regardless of her sex life. This perhaps demonstrates the original idea young boys have of women: sweet, angelic, and motherly. However, Faulkner's focus on men's perception of women's sexuality goes deeper as he introduces us to the second brother, with a slightly more complicated sense of Caddy's sexuality. 
Quentin, the oldest Compson child, has a peculiar obsession with his sister and everything she does, but specifically her sexual actions. As a young boy, we see that he has more than a brotherly love for Caddy, which leads her fiancé to mention once that he thought Quentin was her lover, rather than her brother (Faulkner 123). As Quentin matures, however, he seems to realize that Caddy's promiscuity will disgrace the family name and cause trouble. She continues to confide in him about her various flirtations, and he grows steadily more concerned about her. Guilt over his love for her begins to overtake him, pushing him to the brink of neuroticism. When Caddy visits him at Harvard to tell him that his worst fears have come true, however, he pulls off a knight-in-shining-armor-style move (though it is quite strange): Quentin tells their father that he has committed incest with Caddy, and that the family name should be scorned because of his own actions, not his sister's. Of course, he is not remotely to blame, and nothing ever happened between them, no matter how badly he wanted her. But his scheme to protect Caddy fails, because their father apparently does not really care about the situation. In his mind, women are just beings with which to have sex, and if Quentin had sex with his sister, so be it (Faulkner 89). Quentin does not buy into this idea or the objectification of women – either because he really loves Caddy, or because he feels that he needs to be punished for his thoughts and desires toward her. He finds himself quite conflicted between two ideas: one, his father's, saying that women and their sexuality don't matter and nothing matters; two, his own conviction that women are more than that and deserve to be protected and respected no matter what. Ultimately, he is pushed to the breaking point and unable to hold up any longer: his sister has disgraced the family name and his father's view tells him that she is worthless, so Quentin feels that she has somehow wronged him personally – but in the same breath he loves her; he loves her beyond what is proper or appropriate and in that, he feels that he has contributed to the family's disgrace. His obsession with her and his inability to cope with her actions or his feelings send him over the edge, to the point where he can't go on. Here, Faulkner shows us a more immature man who is aware of women's sexuality but unable to cope with it – a man between childhood and manhood, wanting to retain the sweet, innocent love that Benjy shows for Caddy, but simultaneously being forced to deal with the knowledge that Caddy is not as pure or innocent as a child is taught. 
Faulkner finishes off men's views of women and their sexuality with the third brother, Jason. We don't see much of him until he is an adult, which emphasizes his place in the lineup. First, we meet Benjy – the child who loves Caddy regardless of her sex life. Then we watch Quentin, the young man, drive himself crazy as he is torn between what he believes about women and what every other man seemed to believe. To complete the picture, Faulkner shows us Jason, a man with his own views of Caddy that differ radically from his brothers'. Quentin and Benjy both love Caddy – to a fault, in Quentin's case. But Jason is the only brother who really reaches adulthood; Quentin is driven to the end early, and Benjy is cast out of the house to live with the servants. For a brief moment, things were looking good for Jason – Caddy's husband had offered him a job in a bank, where he could become the man he wanted to be. But Caddy's actions cause her husband to abandon her, which costs Jason the opportunity at the bank. Not only was Jason now deprived of a chance at a good job, but he was expected to provide for his aging mother, Dilsey and her family, Benjy, as well as the new life that Caddy introduced. He certainly doesn't hold Caddy dear to his heart – in his mind, her promiscuity cost him everything and made his life a living hell. But he finds a way to get back at her: virtually embezzling her money. In an attempt to be the mother she never had, Caddy sends money to Jason to cover her daughter's expenses, as well as money to be given directly to her daughter. But Jason ensures that none of that money gets to his niece – keeping it for himself, instead. In his mind, Caddy owes him that – and she's just a means to make money. But that's not the worst of him, yet. While his father viewed women as beings created for sex, Jason doesn't even give them that much value. "I never promise a woman anything," he says to himself (Faulkner 222), "nor let her know what I'm going to give her. That's the only way to manage them. Always keep them guessing. If you can't think of any other way to surprise them, give them a bust in the jaw." Women, to Jason, are utterly worthless. To him, they just eat his food and bother him. He has no qualms with lying to Caddy about where her money is going, nor does he mind hiding what is rightfully his niece's and keeping it for himself. The cycle is complete: Caddy is an angel, Caddy is a promiscuous and beautiful woman, and now – Caddy is nothing. Jason's view of her sexuality differs from that of his brothers', but not from many men today in an age where women are still considered less than men. 
But we can't blame the boys for everything. After all, Caddy still did some horrendous things and caused her family a lot of grief. But why? What would drive her to give her body away to so many men? The answer is simple: if you want to know about the daughter, look at the mother. Caddy's mother, Caroline Compson, was hardly even a mother. She was constantly "ill," complaining about how her children burdened her (Faulkner 117) and expecting Caddy to raise her brothers practically from the day she could walk. The book opens with Benjy's memory of the four children playing down in the trees by a stream. Caddy, who may have been something of a tomboy at the time, gets her drawers muddy. The boys all notice, and their reaction only intensifies when Caddy takes her dress off to play in the water in just her drawers and bodice (Faulkner 19-20). She doesn't care, though – she's quite comfortable with herself. But when the children go back up to the house, Caroline has decided that she is too tired and sick to bathe her daughter, so Caddy is forced to go to bed muddy and dirty. Faulkner uses this childhood scene to demonstrate a good deal of how Caddy came to be...Caddy: her mother cared more about herself than about her daughter, first when Caddy came home muddy, and then when Caddy discovered her sexuality and "dirtied" herself with all the boys (Ibrahim and Dakhil 64). Caroline certainly cared a little bit; she went into mourning when she saw Caddy kissing a boy (Faulkner 264), but she cared more about how Caddy's actions would reflect on her (Caroline) than she cared about teaching her daughter to manage herself around the men. To Caddy's mother, a woman's sexuality was humiliating and should be avoided at all cost – losing one's virginity would cause one to become "unladylike," and that was unacceptable. She couldn't reconcile her two roles (that of being a mother and that of being a lady) with one another because being a mother meant that she had had sex, which meant that she wasn't a "lady" anymore, and the latter title was more important to her (Faulkner 346). Therefore, Caddy's sex education was likely sadly lacking, leaving her to explore her own sexuality on her own. This ultimately led to the multitude of grievances that her mother held against her. Caroline Compson adds a fourth view of women's sexuality to the pile: that it is humiliating and not to be discussed. Perhaps her view contributed to her sons'. 
Throughout the story, Faulkner provides us with view after view of his leading lady, Miss Candace Compson. But he leaves out one crucial view: Caddy's view of herself. At least, it seems that way at first, until we realize just how genius Faulkner really was: he hid Caddy's view in her name. Born Candace, Caddy's name means clarity and whiteness – two attributes of a pure and virtuous woman of whom her entire family could have been proud. But we rarely hear her called by that name. Instead, she is called Caddy, which is a nickname with its own definition. While Candace means clarity and whiteness, the nickname "Caddy" adds one last detail: free man. Faulkner gives us the view that everyone around her had of her, and he gives us the name they wanted her to become, and on top of it all he gives us the name she chose: freedom. Caddy Compson was given idea after idea, opinion after opinion to live up to, and Faulkner let his beautiful tragedy choose the option that so many women today long for – the option to reject what everyone expects of women and how they expect us to live out our sexuality, and to choose freedom instead. 

Works Cited 
Faulkner, William, The Sound and The Fury Random House (USA), Vintage Books Edition, 1987, New York. 
Ibrahim, Massar Majid. "Water Motif in William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury." AL-Fatih Journal, No. 33. 2008. Web. 
ThinkBabyNames.com, "Caddy," no copyright. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee

Wounded Knee- probably one of the most well-known of the Indian Wars, right up there with Custer’s Last Stand. Somehow I made it to my junior year of high school without ever really researching the Battle of Wounded Knee, but our literature assignment gave me perfect reason and opportunity to knuckle down and get that done. For the assignment, I read Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, one of the most critically acclaimed accounts of “the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the nineteenth century.” (see back cover) After reading it, I think this is a pretty great summary of the book. It truly is a thorough, logical account of the Midwestern and Plains Indians, but it doesn’t lack emotion like so many nonfiction history books these days. I wept for Black Kettle, cheered for young Crazy Horse, shook my fist at Army General after Army General, and felt my soul drop into my shoes at the Battle of Wounded Knee.
One of my favorite details about Bury My Heart was that at the beginning of each chapter, Brown listed a sort of timeline for the rest of the world so that going in you would have an idea of what was happening around you. That helped me connect a lot of events and realize more fully how recent these tragic events are to our nation, which brought the facts home even more. Understanding that 1890 was only 126 years ago was huge for me- this was only what, three generations ago? My grandfather’s parents were probably alive then, and yet I know more about the Revolutionary War and the Black Plague than I do about the Indians’ fight for their homeland and battles like Wounded Knee.
Another thing I loved was the open perspective. Anymore, modern historical literature seems to be under the impression that the whole Western Expansion deal was good guys versus bad guys- and it wasn’t! Nothing is here. It wasn’t ‘angry white men murdering all the Indians for no reason,’ and it wasn’t ‘angry redskins murdering all the white men for no reason.’ Brown took a fair look at men like Custer and Red Cloud for who they were and what they did, not what various prejudices ask us to buy into. The fact is, Indians were just as mean as white men sometimes, and white men were just as innocent as Indians other times. It fascinated me how quickly the Indians learned cruel and disgusting ways of retaliation from the white men, which made me think about how much we teach others in everything we do. Even in war! The white men arrived and fought dirty with the Indians, hacking off their limbs and ravishing their women, and the Indians learned to do it right back the next time.
The book focused mainly on tribes like the Sioux and Cheyennes, the ones who fought a number of the major battles. Even at that, it was a little hard for me to follow which chief was from where and did what with whom, but if I focused hard and flipped back a few pages I could usually figure it out. Being unversed in nonfiction, I was worried about getting bored with just the facts, but Bury My Heart was so much more than just the facts. Brown takes facts and cites a billion sources in the back of the book, bracketing chapters with quotes and heartbreaking paragraphs from Indian lips, but in between he fills the pages with emotion and compels the reader to follow the brutal, tragic tales of tribe after tribe fighting for everything they had and losing anyway- losing everything they had and being sent to barren reservations with no food in drastic conditions. I don’t cry over books and I don’t really get into nonfiction well, but I literally could not put this one down. Brown makes their struggles become more relevant to me than the riots in North Carolina today.
The information is well-ordered, being strictly chronological and generally well-flowing. Brown took a wider focus with Bury My Heart; instead of zeroing in on just the Cheyenne or just the Sioux, he compiled all of their histories into one. This makes it easy to get a lot of information all at once, but that information is a little jumbled up at least in my own head. I know I’ve got a pretty hefty list of deeper research projects right now.
It’s hard to narrow down the book into a few paragraphs of ‘this is what it was about’ because truly, it was about so much. Bury My Heart is about the Indians’ war for their freedom, it’s about the white man and his arrogance at times, it’s a heart-wrenching story of a desperate people struggling to survive while the men in power run amuck over everything the Indians thought they could count on. It’s a story of failed interpretations and miscommunications, as demonstrated by the many treaties that were signed and then turned out to not mean what the chiefs thought they meant at all. It’s almost a picture of why democracy is so hard to pull off- the big centralized government back in Washington may have meant well for the Indians; at least, President Grant was certainly not out to annihilate them, but the government’s good intentions meant nothing to the rugged army generals whose first thoughts were to take out the Indians altogether.
Every chief or warrior comes alive on these pages, making it more than just a list of facts. There’s distinct dialogue between chiefs and generals, similar to a novel but this rings truer than that- this is more satisfying. This is my nation’s history, and it sure isn’t pretty but it’s what made us who we are today.
I’m left with a lot of questions after reading Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. It’s a stellar book, it’s full of information and it’s beautiful to read, but it does something very few modern fiction authors know how to do anymore: it makes you think. Brown will tear your heart out as you watch Black Kettle fight for every inch he has, and ultimately lose everything- but he leaves you with no “this is what was right, this is who was wrong.” In some ways, that may be the best part. Instead of being a shove-it-down-your-throat-until-you-see-it-my-way kind of book, this is a these-are-the-facts-and-I
‘M-going-to-break-your-heart-with-them-but-what-you-do-with-it-is-up-to-you kind of a deal. That’s the kind of empowerment we need more of today; just giving people the honest facts and making them think about it without forcing an angle down their throats.
It took me about a week to read Bury My Heart, and it shouldn’t even have taken that long because I read about three hundred pages in one night. Riddled with cliffhangers and action scenes, the deadline wasn’t the only thing making it impossible for me to put this one down. History is getting so boring these days- people are forgetting how to teach it, but Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee surpassed my expectations of a history book. Instead of being slow and dry and factual, this book came alive and draws readers in by the heartstrings. It’s obvious that Brown cared a lot about his topic, just from the passion and emotion in the writing. If all history books were written like this, I’d wind up with a doctorate and a Ph.D in history.

All sources are from Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. Dee Brown, copyright 1970.