The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth.

T.D. Bonner.

Published by Alfred A. Knopf: Borzoi Books, New York, NY, 1931
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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Life and Adventures of James P. ...

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf: Borzoi Books, New York, NY

Publication Date: 1931

Binding: Hardcover

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Edition: First Edition, unstated.


Very Good in Fair DJ: Book shows indications of careful use; light wear to extremities; slight spine lean. Binding remains quite secure; text clean. DJ shows heavy wear: chip loss; wear to extremities; price clipped; mylar-protected. Structually sound and tightly bound, but showing some flaws and with a clean text in a rather tatty DJ. NOT a Remainder, Book-Club, or Ex-Library. 8vo. 405pp. Edited, with an Introduction by Bernard De Voto. Americana Deserta Series, Edited by Bernard De Voto. First Edition, unstated. Hardback with DJ. Beckwourth was a fascinating character; born to a black mother and a white father in 1798, he was apprenticed to be a blacksmith but ran away, and eventually made his way to Colorado and other areas of the western mountain and plains states. He became a chief of the Crow tribe, as well as a scout for the U.S. Army. While this account of his life is widely considered to stretch the truth somewhat, historians agree that he did live a remarkable life. It's an interesting read -- obviously Bonner didn't record Beckwourth's own words, but couched it in florid 19th century prose, which actually gives it a sort of peculiar charm. I was often reminded of Thomas Berger's Little Big Man; the eponymous hero of that novel is adopted into the Sioux and eventually serves as a scout for Custer. The language and attitudes of Berger's characters seem so reminiscent of Beckwourth's story that it seems certain he must have read it. A real peculiarity of Beckwourth's autobiography is the fact that it never makes any mention of his race. The author leaves the impression that Beckwourth was white -- he even refers to another adopted native as a "mulatto." Beckwourth displays a casual attitude toward killing, particularly killing of Native Americans, in this telling. He appears to be, if not racist, certainly "culturist." He frequently denigrates Native Americans in one breath (both his enemies and his friends), only to idealize them and their way of life in the next. How much of this is Beckwourth and how much should be laid at the door of T.D. Bonner, we can't tell. The end of the book is jarring; he marries Pine Leaf, the warrior woman whom he has wanted throughout his time with the Crow, and then almost immediately abandons her and goes back to "civilization" with hardly a second thought. All in all, this book is filled with raw, rough-edged adventure, and provides some genuine insights into the American West. While its cultural biases are difficult to empathize with today, they serve as a reminder of just how different our attitudes have become in 150 years or so. Worth reading. Bookseller Inventory # 42558

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