Friday, January 25, 2008

The Journey of Crazy Horse and Whistling in the Dark

Recently I finished two great books, The Journey of Crazy Horse by Joseph M. Marshall III and Whistling in the Dark by Lesley Kagen. These books are completely different from each other, but I enjoyed them both for various reasons.

The Journey of Crazy Horse:
Having grown up in South Dakota and having lived in Wyoming and Iowa, as well, I have a deep understanding of life in the midwest and, specifically, on the prairie and in the Black Hills. I know how the earth feels there and the pull of the land on your soul. It's a feeling like no other. You can find a deep sense of peace there, a sense of freedom and serenity, and a feeling of incredible sadness. The Journey of Crazy Horse made me fall in love with Crazy Horse all over again, but more as a man than as a legend. He was not perfect, by any means, but he was a good man. A strong man. A man who tried to consistently choose the right path and to put the needs of others above his own.
Reading this book did, however, fill me with a great deal of sadness. I felt a sense of guilt and empathy throughout.
It is not an easy read, but definitely a worthwhile one! I was actually surprised, while reading this book, and talking about it, as I like to do ... how many people are not the least bit familiar with Crazy Horse, Native American History, or frankly, the midwest! I would say something about the book and get, "Crazy Horse. Now, whassat?" as a reply. Crazy Horse! Blank. CRAZY HORSE! You know, Sitting Bull... Custer ...? They would look at me like Lassie with their heads cocked waiting for the words "Timmy" or "well" to appear in the sentence.
It's AMERICAN HISTORY, for God's sake! Come on!!
Most people I speak to in the DC area think Iowa, Ohio and Idaho are all the same state! When I first set up my new checking account upon moving here, the woman at the counter asked me how to abbreviate Iowa. "I-A", I said. "I-A? Are you sure?" Ummmmm, pretty sure.... So she asked me to actually spell Iowa. Insane! I was telling this story to one of my husband Jerry's co-workers and he laughed at the woman's stupidity and said, "Iowa, how hard is it? I-W-A. Duh!"
So, that is probably what makes me the most sad. Not only what happened to the Native American Indians who lost their land that they loved and respected, but that young Americans today know nothing about it.
I encourage everyone to read this book and others on the subject. Learn about our American History! We cannot move forward until we know the past. There is more to the United States of America than the East and West coasts!

Whistling in the Dark:
This is a well-written adventure taking place in Wisconsin in the late 50's. Although it is set years and years and years (okay, I got carried away) ... although it is set a bit before my time, I was delighted to lose myself in the memories of growing up in small town America. The innocence we had and the fears we knew in the backs of our minds. It is a delightful tale!! I fell in love with the main characters, Troo & Sally, and could relate to them in ways I never thought possible. It was a time when kids were allowed to play outside even after the street lights came on. When we would play Red Light, Green Light and Kick the Can in the neighborhood. Of course, we knew not to take candy from strangers or get in anyone's car ... but we still felt safe among our own groups of friends. We heard of "bad things" happening, but it was a time when we thought nothing could actually happen to US. This book took me back in time and made me remember things I had long forgotten. It deals with some once-taboo subject matter, but the book is riotously hilarious! I laughed out loud on the train and openly wept, as well. It's an easy read, but a wonderfully delicous one!!


Doug said...

Thanks for the info on the book. I love history and especially the history of the Black Hills and Crazy Horse. It reminds me of the 7 days I spent with a bunch of other college students and 2 professors for some college credits. We studied Zoology, Botony, Ornithology and Geology of the area. We camped outside at different locations each night. Everybody had a different chore whether it was cooking, cleaning or breaking down camp. We then spent the day learning about different areas of the Black Hills. I saw a lot of things in different areas of the Black Hills that you normally wouldn't see. It was alot of hiking whiched I thrived on but it still got damn cold out at nights even in the dead of summer. One night,we even spent a few hours drinking at a bar with the professors. Considering some of the dumb stuff I have done while drinking. It was a shock that I still recieved those credits. Who knows what I said or did that night. I will definately add this to my list of books and look forward to reading it.

bev said...

Don't know how I missed this post! Loved the review on both books. I remember staying out after the street lights came on...that was quite the treat for us. Doing stupid "bicycle ballet" with my sister. Roller skating with those skates that needed a key, the key swinging back and forth from a string around my neck. Playing in the creek and trowing rocks at the fish that swam there. Must get that book!