So this year I tried to be reading most Native American books this month. Unfortunately, after the first week, I felt depressed enough about my country that I felt that I didn't want to read anything that would make that feeling worse.
This isn't to say that this book makes me feel great about this country - it doesn't. The most engaging parts of the book to me were actually how the author is able to portray a painfully changing world of Susan's people, the Omaha. A painful and incredibly unfair one. Despite how hard she works to do things the right way, to appeal to the government, to make it official law as opposed to an unwritten one, Native Americans (Omaha and others) are hounded by the apathy or straight up manipulation of white people around nearly every corner. The nuance of how some aspects of white culture are beneficial, but huge swaths of it are outright harmful, of how they needed to assimilate, but at the cost of certain aspects of culture, how Susan occasionally feeds into the public mindset of Native people once having been "savages" - these are all difficult, complicated things that are properly given their difficult, complicated due. But most importantly, it never shies away from the damning that America deserves. It's complicated, but it's not excusable.
On top of this, the subject of the book is one of the most intensely amazing people I've had the pleasure to read about. It would be a simplification to say that the doctor had no faults, but everything she did she did with the passionate fervor and a deep understanding of people. The type of person who you'd try to dig into her past to slander and find nothing but an insect she harmed inadvertently and still feels guilty about. To say she gave her life for the benefit of her people would be a painfully quick way to sum it up, but it's true. The wholesome admiration I felt for this woman, whose kindness compelled her to not only medical practice, but for lobbying and missionary work can't be understated. She was an amazing person, and there is a passion to the way that the book is written that makes you wholly believe it.
The writing is readable. I don't have complaints about the simplicity - the author having been a reporter likely means that their style is used to being read by a varied audience, as newspaper articles are supposed to be. But the fact that it isn't didactic or overwritten shouldn't mean that it's for a younger audience, and its accessibility is a nice feature, especially for a historical figure otherwise unknown. I have more problems with books that are dense and are trying to convolute things with long words that don't need it. The story is plenty complex for the complex lives and people in it. This book was not difficult to gobble up, but that was to its benefit.
A worthy, worthy read about a worthy, worthy human.