Posted on Tuesday, August 29th, 2006 at 1:57 pm under Nonfiction

Title: Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier
Author: Joanna Stratton
Genre: Non-fiction

Why I liked this book: From the first time I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, I’ve been fascinated with the pioneer days — with the idea that people would pick up everything they had, leave everyone they knew and loved, and travel to the wilderness to set up a new home, a new livelihood, and a new life. Such a risk! Such danger! From the comfort of my modern American life, it’s always been almost unimaginable. Part of what the Little House series did for me was make the unimaginable into something almost tangible. Pioneer Women does the same thing, but with a harder, less sanitized view of the prairie. This book isn’t written for children, so it doesn’t gloss over the starvation, the danger, the politics, the wars, or the hardship. What it does do is take the heart of hundreds of letters, memoirs, diaries, and personal writings of the women who settled Kansas and share them with the reader — the good, the bad, all of it. The reality.

Letters and memoir are, of course, tinged with the emotions, desires, distance of time, and envisioned audience of she who wrote them, but even accepting those biases these are affecting stories of hardship, perseverance, and joy. I found this a fascinating read, like a window into another world.

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