Regional books: “Bitterroot,” “Polly Pry” and more

Bitterroot.  From Susan Devan Harness (University of Nebraska)

When she was two, Susan Devan Harness, a Salish Indian, was first adopted by a white coupleof Her birth mom was an alcoholic who didn’t even bother to show up at a societal services hearing, so Susan was taken away.  The thought was that she would become a white girl along with all the benefits of the Anglo society.

It didn’t even turn out this way.  Her adoptive father was an abusive alcoholic and bigot who uttered Indians.  Her mom was loving but rectal and shaky.  Harness’ Indian looks made her an outcast at Montana’s most often racist society.

Growing up, Harness longed to find her Indian household.  After years of hunting, a social worker risked her job to provide Harness accessibility to her confidential file. She eventually found her Indian household but found she didn’t even fit into the Indian Earth, either.  She lacked knowledge of the culture.  Some Indians called her a apple — reddish on the outside, white on the inside. While she also created a connection with a number of her loved ones, she felt and suffered from depression and a sense of worthlessness.

“Bitterroot” is Harness’ narrative of her dwelling in two worlds and being fully recovered in neither.  She writes of prejudice — a college advisor who didn’t look at her educational accomplishments advised her to switch to a vocational school. After she gave the Salish tribe a thorough job she’d developed, an elder turned it down because she had been white. Only later did the two find her was her own uncle.

Harness, that lives in Fort Collins, turned into the advocate for Indian adoptees. “Bitterroot,” a moving and psychological memoir, explains why.

Polly Pry: The Woman Who Wrote the West.  From Julia Bricklin (Twodot)

One of America’s best-known “sob sisters,” Polly Pry went to perform for The Denver Post in 1898 and became one of those newspaper ’s most well-known writers.  She took on triggers that stirred readers’ hubs.  Her posts Alfred Packer, the cannibal, captured him released from jail, and she fanned anti-cattle-baron sentiment when she wrote about Wyoming gunman Tom Horn.

She had been fervently against organized labor, and her posts about Telluride’s labor unions were so virulent that many Western Slope readers canceled their subscriptions and F.G. Bonfils, the newspaper ’s co-owner, issued a rare apology. Writer Julia Bricklin claims that has been one of the explanations for Pry’s demise. Gene Fowler, in his history of The Post, “Timberline,” however, asserts Bonfils was uncomfortable with the truth that Pry once saved his lifeand that what had been led to her depart the newspaper.

Pry, whose real name was Leonel Ross Campbell Anthony, then took off on a protracted foreign tour, writing on her adventures.  Foreign travel was pricey, writes Bricklin, also Pry probably wrote the posts from your home.  After she awakened with the newspaper, she put up her own periodical.  It failed, because she had been a better reporter than she had been a businesswoman.

This succinct but well researched biography information Pry’s reportorial ventures along with her occasionally scandalous life.

Remembering Lucile.  From Polly E. Bugros McLean (University Press of Colorado)

As Lucile Buchanan appeared to receive her degree as the first African-American to graduate from the University of Colorado, in 1918, she had been advised that because of her race she would not be permitted on stage. Instead, she would receive her degree behind the scenes.  She left, vowing never to return to CU, and she never did.

The irony of the white universe offering with one hand, afterward carrying with the other, was a sign of Lucile’s life — and of numerous other elephants in the decades following the Civil War.

The granddaughter of a slave and a farm owner, Lucile was composed at the Barnum section of Denver in which was then considered an upper-class black household.  Briefly wed, she had been an instructor and activist, dying at the age of 103. Her life was notable but hardly the stuff of a riveting biography.

So author Polly E. Bugros McLean informs Lucile’s narrative against the background of the life was like for blacks at the 100 years following emancipation. Within a exhaustively researched novel, McLean writes of the horror of reconstruction and the development of the Ku Klux Klan. Denver, she states, was hardly free of prejudice, but whites were not as fearful of elephants since they were at the South.  It made it marginally easier for Lucile’s household when they migrated from Virginia into Denver.

McLean intersperses Lucile’s narrative with particulars of her family and commentary on the situation nationwide of post-Civil War blacks.

Lucile’s narrative may lack delight, but McLean supplies some with an epilogue on 2 of Lucile’s nieces and their bizarre demise.

Nisei Naysayer.  From James Matsumuto Omura (Stanford University Press)

After the Japanese living on the West Coast were sent to relocation camps during World War II, most took the mindset “it can’t be assisted. ”  The potent Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) worked with the authorities to make the process easier.  However, maybe not all Japanese went along with internment.  1 protester was newspaperman Jimmie Omura, whose fierce opposition to racism, internment and the JACL continued a life. “Has the Gestapo come to America? ” he asked in an editorial.

Omura, who died 25 decades back from Denver, left a memoir that’s both bitter and informative. Readers will know why.

Even a Nisei, Omura left home at 13.  His father was remote, and his ill mom had shot her younger kids to Japan to be raised by relatives. Omura took various menial jobs before becoming a journalist at Japanese papers.  Together with his strident design and hatred to your JA, he created enemies, such as Bill Hosokawa, after a Denver Post editor.  He had been sued by the authorities after he compared drafting internment camp guys without providing them full citizenship.  While he had been acquitted, he was reviled by most Japanese and gave up reporting. He wound up as a landscaper at Denver.

“Nisei Naysayer” is sometimes tough slogging, but it’s a valuable contribution to the growing body of work on Japanese-Americans through World War II.

Shotguns and Stagecoaches.  From John Boessenecker (Thomas Dunne Books)

Next to cowboys, Wells Fargo detectives might be the most romantic heroes of the Old West.  Plenty has been written regarding the coaches, however “Shotguns and Stagecoaches” is your first book to focus on the guys who rode shotgun (a phrase which came later) — two dozen of them.

The guards weren’t there to look after the stages, writes historian John Boessenecker. They secure the strong boxes.  Many stages didn’t even have guards. They were there just when the trainers carried strong boxes, often a “pony safe,” a mailbox attached to the floor under a passenger seat.

The guys who shielded the boxes were a brave bunch.  The first “messenger,” since he was known, was Chips Hodgkins, that worked from 1851 to 1891. He and other guards were so powerful not before 1859 did a Wells Fargo sleuth kill a guy in a shootout.  Most bandits flagged the coaches once they slowed down in awkward places in the road, Boessenecker relates, and few chased the trainers. Finally trains replaced stagecoaches, also both bandits and detectives found new careers with the railroads.

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