Friday, October 29, 2010

Book Review

I'm reading another great book.  That's "great" with a lower-case "g," meaning that it is not one of Great books, although I've got stacks of those waiting, thanks to PaperbackSwap....

This tome is described as "A story of courage, community and war."  Here's a hint as to its subject: it is timely, considering a holiday we celebrate soon.  Oh, and I discovered it at the Clifton Forge Library while doing a search on "Indians." 

Any ideas?
The book is Mayflower, written by Nataniel Philbrick, copyright 2006.   

Honestly, when I was researching books to check out I didn't realize it was such a hefty piece of work - in the large print section at the library, its over 730 pages!  But, I decided to give it its due and read the first 100 pages - and I was hooked by the time I finished the introduction. 

This ain't your candy-coated Pilgrim story with big-buckled shoes and handprint turkeys.

Charlotte Mason, in her approach to education, advocated reading "living" books, books that are "well written and well put," and said that knowledge is the true motivation for education.  This book, with page after page of primary sources in the bibliography, is a good fit for Mason's criteria.  I can't wait until Hannah can read this book.

All of the historical figures in this book are well rounded, fairly-depicted, with flaws, strengths and weaknesses. What I see most in this text is the contrast between the "Native American story" with which we are indoctrinated today and the historically accurate picture of the Indians that lived in the area that is now New England in the early 17th century.  Those Puritans?  their reliance on "Strangers," or those not of their faith quickly gave them a reputation for fierceness and violence that struck fear into the Indians of the time.   

Another book I happened to pick up during the same library visit is Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen.  It turned out to be the perfect companion reader to Mayflower.  I've only read the first two chapters, but so far I agree with the author's point of view that most high school students loathe history primarily because of the flat and paltry treatment it gets in textbooks and that those same texts tend to grossly distort the past. 

I won't give too much away about Mayflower, except to highly recommend it.  You think you know the whole story about those white-capped and hatted folks who came to Plymouth in 1620, don't you?  There is more to the story that will give you a richer perspective of who we are today and even our own American relationship to Naive Americans in the modern age.  Don't let the size scare you away.  It is an easy read and will give you a more in-depth picture of the early inhabitants of this country - native and immigrant.  While this is a secular text, all "religions" are treated fairly.  What is most evident to me, though - and it probably was not an aim of the author - is the fact that we are all - Indian and "white man," sinners in need of a savior.  None of us comes close to perfection as we struggle in our human condition.  No one group of people is closer to perfection than another, regardless if they are living in harmony with the land or seeking sainthood on their own by their religious fervor. 

Get thee to the library, friend!

1 comment:

  1. I am reading Leigh Bortins 'The Core', a wonderful book on classical method, written for all educators. She says that the reason for the 'flat and paltry treatment' is that we don't allow students to wrestle with the original source documents, that they are 'summarized' by committees who write textbooks. The students are hand-fed this prechewed meat because we couldn't expect them to actually think for themselves, could we?? Students aren't expected to do the hard work of learning, and parents are equally guilty of complaining when their kid's work isn't 'entertaining' enough. They want amusement, not education.


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