Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Friday, June 25, 2010

Audiobook Week: Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains, by Charles Eastman

by Charles Eastman
first published in 1918
audiobook: 2.5 hours
narrated by Lorenzo Baca

*** About the Book ***

This is an excerpt from Eastman’s longer book by the same title. It contains profiles of five famous Native Americans who Eastman either knew first hand or had second-hand knowledge of. The profiles were written during their lifetime or shortly after their deaths. Profiles include Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Chief Joseph, Spotted Tail, and Red Cloud.

Each of the profiles in this audiobook was about 30 minutes in length and began with basic details of the person's early life and stories that illuminated his character.  Eastman then showed the way that each man led his people, be it in battle, by the council fires, or by inspiring them.

*** Why I Listened To It ***

A while back I watched the TV version of the book BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE. At the end of the film I realized that it was based on a true story. The main character, Charles Eastman, was a Santee Sioux who attended a mission school at the request of his father. He eventually graduated from college with a medical degree. His work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs brought him face to face with the degradation of his people and he began to write about his experiences and to lobby for Indian Rights.

Once I learned all this I immediately began searching out Eastman’s books; I had to see how his experiences affected his writing. I have several of his – and his wife’s – books on my shelf waiting to be read, but I always seem to get to my audiobooks before I get to my paper books.

*** My Thoughts ***

I found it fascinating to hear Eastman's first-hand impressions of these great Native American leaders.  It is obvious that he was writing in part to counteract the then-commonly-held opinion that Indians were violent, unpredictable, and not to be trusted.  And in fact his writing matches very closely the revisionist history that is popular today. 

Listening to this excerpt made me want to get a copy of the complete book so I could learn about even more great Native American leaders of this era.  And I'm also excited to read the Eastman books that are patiently waiting on my shelf.

*** About the Narrator ***

Here is a case where the narrator almost ruined the book for me. Baca’s narration was choppy, halting, and almost painful to listen to. It sounded to me like he maybe spoke English as a second language, so I did a bit of research to see if that was true. I found out that Baca is of Isleta Pueblo/Mescalero Apache descent, that he is a poet and musician, and that he has narrated many other books. That didn’t answer my language question but it did make it clear to me that perhaps I’m in the minority in not liking his narration … Still, this was a fascinating book despite the odd narration style.

This book also included some traditional Native American music and some of Baca's original music.  I loved the traditional music and felt that it added a great deal to the audiobook but Baca's music was odd and really pulled me out of the story.

*** Your Thoughts ***

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that most of you have not read anything by Charles Eastman - am I right? But had you at least heard of him before?  Are you interested in reading/listening to any of his books? 

Here's a question for you: Have you ever read a contemporary first-hand account of a historical figure written by someone whose opinion went against commonly held beliefs?  If so, I'd love to hear about it!

Note: This review is part of Audiobook Week. Today I’m reviewing a Non-Fiction book; other genres will be featured throughout the week.


bermudaonion said...

Too bad it didn't have a better narrator - they definitely make or break the book.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

We read Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee for book club several years back. I remember it left me feeling heavy with the grief of what happened.

I find the era fascinating and would be interested in this.

Anonymous said...

I found the film version of Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee very drab and boring. Which was a shame, because I was gripped by Dee Brown's original book. In fact it inspired me to visit South Dakota and stay on a Lakota Sioux reservation.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

bermudaonion - I agree!

Sheila & blackwatertown - I really want to read that book now - it's on my list to get as soon as I can.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin