When I saw Faces from the Past on the Netgalley catelogy, I was excited, since my recent read about forensic anthropology was such a delightful read for me. My son and I have been studying early American history as well, so it fits in well with my current interests. Once again, I have to say how much I love homeschooling: as I teach my son kindergarten-level history, I am enjoying delving much deeper in to the history of my country.
Faces from the Past: Forgotten People of North America by James M. Deen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, November 2012) is another middle grade or young adult nonfiction look at American history by forensic analyzation of the bones that remain behind after hundreds of years. Mr Deen goes much farther back than Sally Walker did: he begins with remains found that are probably 15,000 years old, some of the oldest American bones found. I loved how his book provided examples of remains from all over the country, from a shipwrecked French sailor from La Salle’s expedition found off the coast of what is now Texas (1600s) to the “ordinary” women buried in Albany, New York.
Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker (Carolrhoda, 2009) is about what we can learn about a few early American settlers from their bones and burial. It is both a lesson in very early American history as well as a scientific exploration of forensic anthropology. Since I’m studying Jamestown this week with my son and since I’m a big fan of the television show Bones for it’s insight into forensic anthropology, I really enjoyed Written in Bone. Walker approaches her subject with obvious passion, clear language, and well done scientific explanations, all for a young adult audience. She teaches without belittling her audience, a difficult task to do when she’s writing for youth as young as 12 and as old as any adult. (more…)
Because I’m beginning to teach a year of light American history for my son, I have decided to read some books on various subjects in American history myself. Where else to begin but with a review of life in the Americas before Christopher Columbus and his fellow explorers brought Europeans en masse in the late 1400s?
The book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann examines the evidences that we have in order to draw a picture of what the Americas were like before Columbus came. Relying on archeological evidences as well as historical records and geological studies, he draws a clear picture of how the native Americans may have lived. As he points out, much of his discussion is on life for the natives during the conquests, as the European reaction, descriptions, and memoirs are what we have as evidences of how life may have been before they appeared. I realize now better than ever that the native population of the Americas was huge, diverse, innovative, and talented. As a precursor to my own study of American history, 1491 was an essential introduction. (more…)
Wise Women of the Dreamtime: Aboriginal Tales of the Ancestral Power (Inner Traditions International, 1993) is a fascinating collection of tales from Australian Aboriginal woman as dictated to a Western woman in the late 1800s. Editor Joanna Lambert expands upon these tales by providing commentary and discussion after each tale, focusing on the various folkloric traditions around the globe and emphasizing both the uniqueness of the Aboriginal tales and the similarities the Aboriginal folklore has with other cultures. Given the thousands of years in which Aboriginal traditions flourished essentially unaltered, I found it fascinating to read the folklore.
Kate Langloh Parker was fascinated by the Aboriginal traditions as a child, and as an adult, she collected the stories the women told her. Tragically, in her day, such folkloric anthropological research was not appreciated in Australia. In the past century, Aboriginal traditions have been overshadowed by the Western traditions entering into the territory and the 60,000 year old culture is losing it’s solidarity.
Ms Lambert’s volume reintroduces Ms Parker’s anthology of collected stories with sensitivity into a world that may be better equipped to appreciate the culture of the Aborigines. Although I am not an anthropologist, I greatly enjoyed Ms Lambert’s commentary. The stories of Dreamtime are a fascinating look at an ancient culture and religious tradition. I only wished Ms Lambert and Ms Parker had more folklore collected to share with me!
Geographically, anthropologically, archaeologically, historically, politically, and above all religiously, the city of Jerusalem is a fascinating city. In Jerusalem: The Eternal City, David Galbraith, D. Kelly Ogden, and Andrew Skinner provide an overview of the city, focusing on the many different aspects of Jerusalem’s past, its present, and the potential for the future, specifically from the perspective of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons).
Jerusalem: The Eternal City, then, has a very specific audience. It is not a universal book about Jerusalem, and its limited audience does give the book some flaws. When I read this book ten years ago, prior to my own experience in Jerusalem, I was in love with everything to do with the city and its history, and this book got me more than a little excited to walk the streets of Jerusalem myself. Despite the flaws, I still enjoyed rereading Jerusalem: The Eternal City, and it reminded me of my time there. (more…)