Reviewed by Karl Travis
Empire of the Summer Moon
After reading Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne, all romantic notions of the old west are shot to death. It follows the rise and fall of the Comanche Nation, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history, and Quannah Parker, its last and greatest chief. At times unbearable, it took me longer than usual to get through. Reading it was like conquering a country and subduing a people, one long, bloody battle at a time. I can’t say that I liked it. In fact, I didn’t enjoy it at all. Not because it wasn’t written well, or researched to the bone, but because it exposes the harsh reality of a human world the likes of which I wish did not exist. It’s hard for the modern mind to wrap itself around the gang rapes and torture killings and tribe on tribe genocide that took place as common practice for thousands of years before any white man even got here. It’s equally difficult for us to understand the deliberate extinction of the buffalo by the white man, not just for profit as many think, but as political act: an act of warfare to annihilate the Comanche way of life. One thing I did like was the book’s objective stance. Gwynne writes “No one who knew anything about the century-long horror of Comanche attacks in northern Mexico or about their systematic demolition of the Apaches or the Utes or the Tonkowas could possibly have believed that the tribe was either peaceable or blameless. Except in the larger sense, of course. The Comanches had been first on that land, if that counted for anything, and the westering Anglo-Europeans were the clear aggressors.” As a reader, this book will test your stomach. I don’t recommend it to anyone unless you really want to know what happened when our country decided to push west.