Book Review · Nonfiction

1491

1491byCCM

For some reason, I have been buying a lot of nonfiction books about the Americas. Specifically, books about the peoples and cultures that were here before Columbus and co. arrived on the shores. Being an American child, I was taught throughout school that the native people of the Americas helped the struggling Pilgrims out of the kindness of their hearts. Then, both Pilgrims and “Indians” sat down to a big feast to express their thankfulness. Everyone lived happily ever after. Except they didn’t.

This book dispels many myths about the Americas and the people who lived there before European settlers arrived. Not all Native Americans helped the settlers because they were kind. They had other motives, just like anyone else. The Americas were not sparsely settled. The environment was not as pristine and virgin as we might have heard. There were many people living in the Americas pre-1491, and they were actually quite advanced.

I wanted to start with this book because it appeared to be a sort of overview of different Native American cultures. I thought that this book would be a good place to start learning about the Americas. Well, it was, and it was not. It was a good starting point because it does cover a vast amount of areas and cultures. However, if you know as little as I do, it may not be the easiest first step to take in learning about this subject. I thought that the book was written in a more academic way than I was comfortable with. This, of course, is not the book’s fault, but it was a bit over my head. I learned a lot, but it was a challenging read.

I would have preferred if the book was structured a bit differently as well. It appeared to be ordered by topic instead of time period. Personally, I would have preferred to have timeline-like approach to the chapters so that I could order the events in my head. Maybe there was a kind of time organization, but it was not clear enough for me. But again, my knowledge of Native Americans is actually pretty sad. Beyond my limited elementary/high school knowledge (my high school textbook on American history had one single paragraph on the Trail of Tears for example), I have only taken one course that briefly dealt with Native American literature and one course on South American history that barely touched anything before European influence.

This review has strayed from discussing the book to discussing me, but I think that my own experience really plays into how I view this book and the subject matter within it. I was very surprised by some of the facts in here, but I admit it was written a little over my head. I would not recommend it as a starting point if your knowledge of the subject is terrible as mine, but I would recommend it in general if you are curious about the Americas pre-Columbus.

 

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