The Americas


Golden, Renny.  Blood Desert: Witnesses, 1820-1880 (University of New Mexico Press, 2010).

In narrative poems that take us back to New Mexico during the nineteenth century, Renny Golden resurrects the spirits of native people and of those who came West. To read these poems is to hear the voices of Padre Marti­nez and Bishop Lamy, Geronimo and General Crook, Billy the Kid and Sister Blandina.

Blood Desert is history that breaks into song, and readers are drawn into a chorus of voices that have gone unheardâ?"women, indigenous peoples and more. What marvelous poetry, what powerful stories! Readers will not be able to put this book down.” Demetria Martínez, author of Mother Tongue and Confessions of a Berlitz-Tape Chicana.

“From the end of Spanish colonial rule in 1821, to the United States invasion of 1846, to the surrender of Geronimo, these poems provide a lyrical alternative history that enlightens the reader.” Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of Roots of Resistance: A History of Land Tenure in New Mexico.

Renny Golden, an activist, poet, and academic, lives in Albuquerque. Among her other books are War on the Family: Mothers in Prison and the Families They Leave Behind and The Hour of the Furnaces

Highly Recommended by Voices' War and Peace Coordinator, Marilyn Turkovich.


Spector, Barry.  Madness at the Gates of the City: The Myth of American Innocence (Regens Press, 2010).

This is truly an original work. – Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States

Written in plain English, Madness At The Gates Of The City discovers a new imagination for the future in very old ways of thinking: at the core, the Other is ourselves. It should appeal to anyone interested in myth, Classics, history, psychology or progressive politics. It will provide much new insight for people searching for new ways to understand how we behave in the world and what we might become. -- from the foreword by Robert A. Johnson, author of We and Inner Work

…disturbing and evocative, mythologically wise and instructive…This is a work that should be read by anyone who wants to make a difference
. -- Jean Houston, author of A Mythic Life

Our world lives, loves, suffers and triumphs by myth, often unseen and unconsidered. In the tradition of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, Barry Spector makes myths come alive; he helps us in the desperately important task of re-imagining our way. – Jack Kornfield, author of A Path With Heart

…might help us look more honestly at the false innocence that sustains our illusions about the American dream and prevents our acknowledging its dark underside. – Christine Downing, author of The Goddess

…echoes with penetrating ideas and mythic nuances. – Michael Meade, author of The World Behind the World

The book looks at America through the lenses of Greek mythology, indigenous wisdom and archetypal psychology. It shows how we enact old patterns that cause us to subvert our goals, miss the deeper meaning in events and, perhaps, fail to prevent our headlong slide into cultural collapse.

Early white Americans developed literature, theology and political rhetoric that over time gradually coalesced into narratives of new beginnings, heroic destiny and good intentions. However, these stories veiled deep strains of Puritanism, racism and imperialism, and they utilized the threat of dark strangers – first Indians, witches and slaves, then communists – to provoke our anxieties. After four centuries, fear of the Other, now as terrorists and immigrants, still defines us as “not them.”    

Highly Recommended by Voices member: Sandy Eastoak          


Taylor, Alan.  The Civil War of 1812 (Knopf, 2010).
In this deeply researched and clearly written book, the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Alan Taylor tells the riveting story of a war that redefined North America. During the early nineteenth century, Britons and Americans renewed their struggle over the legacy of the American Revolution. Soldiers, immigrants, settlers, and Indians fought in a northern borderland to determine the fate of a continent. Would revolutionary republicanism sweep the British from Canada? Or would the British empire contain, divide, and ruin the shaky American republic?

In a world of double identities, slippery allegiances, and porous boundaries, the leaders of the republic and of the empire struggled to control their own diverse peoples. The border divided Americans—former Loyalists and Patriots—who fought on both sides in the new war, as did native peoples defending their homelands. Serving in both armies, Irish immigrants battled one another, reaping charges of rebellion and treason. And dissident Americans flirted with secession while aiding the British as smugglers and spies.

During the war, both sides struggled to sustain armies in a northern land of immense forests, vast lakes, and stark seasonal swings in the weather. In that environment, many soldiers panicked as they fought their own vivid imaginations, which cast Indians as bloodthirsty savages. After fighting each other to a standstill, the Americans and the British concluded that they could safely share the continent along a border that favored the United States at the expense of Canadians and Indians. Both sides then celebrated victory by forgetting their losses and by betraying the native peoples.

A vivid narrative of an often brutal (and sometimes comic) war that reveals much about the tangled origins of the United States and Canada.      


Woodworth, Steven E.  Manifest Destines (Knopf, 2010).

A sweeping history of the 1840s, Manifest Destinies captures the enormous sense of possibility that inspired America’s growth and shows how the acquisition of western territories forced the nation to come to grips with the deep fault line that would bring war in the near future.

Steven E. Woodworth gives us a portrait of America at its most vibrant and expansive. It was a decade in which the nation significantly enlarged its boundaries, taking Texas, New Mexico, California, and the Pacific Northwest; William Henry Harrison ran the first modern populist campaign, focusing on entertaining voters rather than on discussing issues; prospectors headed west to search for gold; Joseph Smith founded a new religion; railroads and telegraph lines connected the country’s disparate populations as never before. 

When the 1840s dawned, Americans were feeling optimistic about the future: the population was growing, economic conditions were improving, and peace had reigned for nearly thirty years. A hopeful nation looked to the West, where vast areas of unsettled land seemed to promise prosperity to anyone resourceful enough to take advantage. And yet political tensions roiled below the surface; as the country took on new lands, slavery emerged as an irreconcilable source of disagreement between North and South, and secession reared its head for the first time.

Rich in detail and full of dramatic events and fascinating characters, Manifest Destinies is an absorbing and highly entertaining account of a crucial decade that forged a young nation’s character and destiny.