Monday, February 9, 2009

Wounded Knee - A Story of Two Proud Cultures

Wounded Knee
Author Neil Waldman
Reading level: Young Adult 8 – 12 years
Hardcover: 64 pages
Publisher: Atheneum; 1st edition (April 3, 2001)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0689825595
ISBN-13: 978-0689825590

Neil Waldman writes the account of Wounded Knee for the young reader in a way they can understand historical chronological detail without being bored. Waldman expertly weaves a story of historical facts that reads like an action filled fiction novel. In addition, Waldman's distinctive illustrations add texture to this factual account. Many of the paintings are based on well-known early photographs from the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress collections.

The story of Wounded Knee sheds light on why two cultures and two warring nations battle to preserve their own way of life. Author, Neil Waldman handles the violent and heart wrenching events between the American government, white settlers and Indian tribes who lived around the Black Hills of South Dakota in a factual and balanced way. Waldman’s account cannot change the facts on either side but he does bring to light the cultural misunderstandings, journalistic rampages of the press and unintentional as well as intentional betrayals.

Waldman puts the reader in the shoes of Black Elk as he races to the top of a high ridge overlooking Wounded Knee Creek with a vivid description of the massacre on the morning of December 29, 1890.

Then suddenly, a volley of gunfire erupted in the distant hills to the east, and Black Elk froze.
“The sounds went right through my body,” he would say later, “and I felt that something terrible would happen.”

Waldman points out that potential for conflict had been brewing for centuries. For more than 400 years white settlers had been filling the east coast with cities, villages and farms. About a thousand miles away the seven warrior tribes of the Lakota had also been living for many generations in an area that stretched from Missouri to Wyoming. Both sides had a sense of possession for the land and both disagreed on what that meant.

Writing historical non-fiction is not easy just because “plot” and characters are already formed. In fact it is more difficult because with fiction you can make up anything (almost) to move the story along. It has been said that “truth is stranger than fiction” but maybe we should say that “truth is more difficult to write than fiction”.

There is also historical fiction. This means that the story has truthful facts but may have fictional characters. For more information on the difference between the two and advice on how to write historical fiction or non-fiction, visit the sites below.

Visit Lila Guzman who writes non-fiction and historical fiction
Suzanne Lieurance. A writing coach for fiction and non-fiction
Eleven tips for writing non-fiction for kids by Fiona Bayrock
Creative non fiction by Susan Taylor Brown
On Writing Non fiction for Children by Lindsay Mannell

Write it down,