This year True West marks the conclusion of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War—the beginning of the post-war West, and the 125th memorial of the Battle of Wounded Knee—
yet the history of the West is not neatly trapped in 19th-century frontier history. Authors are pushing back into the earliest centuries of European exploration and settlement of the West and looking at the present to provide greater context for what our Western past means to us today.
Three recent creative works I highly recommend:
The Moor’s Account: A Novel, by Laila Lalami (Pantheon Books, $26.95), is a brilliant reinterpretation of one of the earliest legendary figures of the West: Estibanico, the Moroccan slave and first black explorer of the New World.
Traders and Raiders: The Indigenous World of the Colorado Basin, 1540-1859, by Natale A. Zappia (University of North Carolina Press, $39.95), insightfully gives readers a deeper understanding of how the intersection of multiple Indian cultures and Euro-Americans created the modern West.
Showdown in the Big Quiet: Land, Myth, and Government in the American West, by John P. Bieter, Jr. (Texas Tech University Press, $70cloth/$39.95 paper), uses Owyhee County, Idaho, as a contextual model to study the real and imagined history of land-use in the West.