The best books about the destruction of North America

Who am I?

I love America. I was born here, I live here, and I will die here. Like Walt Whitman, I am mad for this place, and I treasure the soil beneath my feet, the water I drink, and the air I breathe. Unfortunately, the soil I love so much has been marinated in the blood of previous generations, the water I drink is filled with the filthy effluent of a greedy, industry-centered culture, and the air I breathe is bitter, choking me with cancer-causing toxins. Why do I care so much about books that describe the destruction of the North American continent? Because the destruction has not stopped!!!!!!!!

I wrote...

The Spirit Keeper: A Novel

By K.B. Laugheed,

Book cover of The Spirit Keeper: A Novel

What is my book about?

The Spirit Keeper is an Indian captivity narrative which begins when seventeen-year-old Katie O'Toole is rescued from a 1747 frontier massacre in Pennsylvania only to discover that she has been chosen to be the "Spirit Keeper" of a dying Indian Seer.  Reluctant to agree to something she simply doesn’t understand, Katie finally accepts the mysterious obligation after she falls in love with the Seer’s bodyguard, an Indian man she calls Hector.  As Katie and Hector canoe up the Missouri River, Katie explores the rich setting of pre-colonized America, taking readers on an adventure they will not soon forget.

The books I picked & why

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The Frontiersmen: A Narrative

By Allan W. Eckert,

Book cover of The Frontiersmen: A Narrative

Why this book?

The Frontiersmen by Allan Eckert was a life-changing experience for me. I read it as a youth, and Eckert’s compelling writing and meticulous research opened my eyes to just a few of the horrific events that happened right here in my backyard—events that enabled me to have a backyard in North America. This book is history as it should be written: a vivid description of true events without editorializing or interpretation. Eckert was a master storyteller who let the facts speak for themselves, and he is a personal hero of mine.

The Crossbreed

By Allan W. Eckert,

Book cover of The Crossbreed

Why this book?

I first fell madly in love with the writing of Allan Eckert when I read The Crossbreed. I’m a cat person, so I was, of course, a sucker for a story about a wild kitten who was a cross between a housecat and a bobcat. Eckert’s descriptive writing enabled me to see North America through the cat’s eyes, and I still cry like a baby every time I think about the poignant ending—not because the story was so sad, but because it was so beautiful. If you have ever wondered what we lost in the destruction of the North American wilderness, just read The Crossbreed.

The Silent Sky: The Incredible Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

By Allan W. Eckert,

Book cover of The Silent Sky: The Incredible Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

Why this book?

Once I became obsessed with Allan Eckert’s delicious writing, I read everything he wrote, which is how I happened upon The Silent Sky – The Incredible Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon. Oh my God!!! How did this happen? Why? Passenger pigeons were such an astonishing phenomenon—until we exterminated them. After reading this book, I went to the Cincinnati Zoo and wept before the stuffed corpse of Martha, the last of her kind, and I commissioned a lawn statue of her to serve as a memorial to the billions of her brethren who once filled the skies over my house. What have we done, what have we done...?

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

By Dee Brown,

Book cover of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

Why this book?

I hate to recommend Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown because it is an excruciating look back at the atrocities inflicted by my people upon the original Natives of North America. Unfortunately, not reading about those horrific acts does not erase them from the historical record, which is why this book should be mandatory reading for every single American. The endless litany of murder and treachery recounted in this book spans nearly 500 years, and, yet, the average American knows almost nothing about the tragic events that made our lives possible. America stands for freedom, right? Dee Brown reminds us there was nothing free about it. A terribly high price was paid for this decadent paradise we enjoy...

The Falcon

By John Tanner,

Book cover of The Falcon

Why this book?

The Falcon was one of the many books I studied while researching The Spirit Keeper, and John Tanner’s contemporary description of life among the Ojibwa continues to haunt me. Although captivity narratives were once very popular in America, Tanner did not achieve fame or fortune from his life story. What he did achieve, however, was a clear record of the steady destruction of the rich and varied native cultures of North America as Colonial forces slowly eroded the entire ecosystem of the continent. Because this story was written shortly after the events described, it’s a challenging read, but once you get into the rhythm of the 19th century language, you won’t be able to put the book down.

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