Man, it's hard to write about a book this short in a meaningful way. So I'm going to talk a little bit about this project as a whole -- there's this group, in60learning, who write very concise non-fiction (text and audiobooks) on historical topics/events or biographies (other topics are coming, apparently), so they can be read and digested in a brief matter of time. Great idea -- I'm on board with this. I found the selection a little overwhelming, honestly, since I was going to try just one -- I'm not sure I'd have been any more decisive if I'd had 6 to choose from. So I just told them to send me one at random. I'll get to that in a minute, but first, if you're interested in this idea and want to get more information about the group and their releases, get yourself added to their LearningList.
Now, the title I got was Illinois Native Americans: A 9,000 Year Civilization. I know nothing about the Illinois, nada. You ask me about Native American tribes from the Idaho area, and I'm good; I know a little about the Delaware thanks to David Brainerd; and a bit about the Cheyenne thanks to Craig Johnson. I'm not sure how reliable a source Henry Standing Bear really is, though. So the Illinois? Fuhgeddaboudit. Making me a prime candidate for this book. The idea that this people group existed as a discernible culture for 9,000 years is mind-boggling.
The book covers all sorts of aspects of the Illinois -- the politics, the religion, the familial roles, hunting, interaction with other Native American groups -- and present state. It talked about changes that happened when Europeans showed up and altered the way of life for everyone in North America.
I appreciated the matter-of-fact way the book addressed cultural changes when the Illinois came into extended contact with Europeans -- apparently, primarily the French. The book didn't vilify the French (or English, etc.) for the changes they brought to the culture -- nor did they act like this was the greatest thing for them. Instead, it took more of a "so this changed" approach, letting the readers draw their own conclusions.
The writing is crisp, clear, and (seemingly) comprehensive. It achieves this great balance of being brief and yet covering 9,000 years of history. Even better, it does this history in a few paragraphs in a way that doesn't feel like you're missing a lot.
A couple of short-comings that may or may not be addressed in actual editions of the books, not just the ARC version I received -- footnotes/endnotes would be great, or at least a bibliography. Just so a reader could look into some of what's covered a little more.
I really liked this book and plan on picking up more in the series soon. I think it's just the kind of thing that could help my kids with some things in school, and yet it could also appeal to they busy adult who just feels like they should get better grounded in some part of history or just wants to read something quick. I don't see why anyone from 12 on up couldn't benefit from (or understand) this book, and assume the same is true for the rest of the series. Dive into these, folks, you'll be glad you did.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion -- thanks for this!