Over the past couple months, a number of books by western historians have won several prestigious awards. Spanning from the Colonial Era and Early Republic through the opening decade of the 21st century, the books demonstrate a breathtaking depth of topics covered by some of the profession’s best talents.
Alan Taylor won his second Pulitzer Prize for his The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 (W.W. Norton & Company, 2013). Taylor masterfully explores the role runaway slaves in the Chesapeake Bay played in the American Revolution, the burning of Washington D.C. during the War of 1812, and the Nat Tuner Rebellion of 1831. Through it all, Taylor describes how these men and women used their intimate knowledge of region to shape the early republic’s history.
Ari Kelman’s fantastic second book, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek (Harvard University Press, 2013) is the winner of both Columbia University’s Bancroft Prize and the Organization of American Historian’s Avery O. Craven Award. A fascinating exploration of the role of memory, A Misplaced Massacre explores how generations of Americans have struggled with the meaning of the massacre of 150 Cheyenne and Arapahoe on the banks of Sand Creek in 1864. Kelman examines the malleability of history and memory in providing a single interpretation of any event through his discussion of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site.
Winner of this year’s National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Wrangler Award, David Wrobel’s Global West, American Frontier: Travel, Empire and Exceptionalism from Manifest Destiny to the Great Depression (University of New Mexico Press, 2013) brilliantly treats a body of well-known travel writing, including works by Isabella Lucy Bird, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Works Progress Administration, by juxtaposing concepts of region and empire through tourist travel.
Stacey Smith’s Freedom’s Frontiers: California and the Struggle over Unfree Labor, Emancipation, and Reconstruction (University of North Carolina, 2013) is this year’s David Montgomery Award winner for best book on American labor. Smith illuminates how various forms of exploitation bound African Americans, Chinese, Latino, Native American, and Hawai’ian workers in California from the Civil War through Reconstruction.
William Philpott’s Vacationland: Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High Country (University of Washington Press, 2013) is this year’s Spur Award winner for Best Contemporary Nonfiction book. Philpott traces the fascinating transformation of Colorado’s mountains into a global destination enjoyed by millions for its scenic wonders and recreational amenities following World War II, creating what he terms a tourist lifestyle that redefined the American West in the late 20th century.In addition to Vacationland, the Western Writers of America selected Jared Farmer’s Trees in Paradise: A California History ( W.W. Norton & Company, 2013) and Larry Gragg’s Bright Light City: Las Vegas in Popular Culture (University Press of Kansas, 2013) as this year’s Spur Award finalists. Farmer demonstrates why he is considered one of the best and most original writers of western history in his third book. Trees in Paradise brilliantly tells the history of the Golden State by intertwining the stories between its people and their purposeful recreation of their landscapes. In Bright Light City: Las Vegas in Popular Culture,Gragg examines the ever-alluring Sin City. Gragg not only tells the story of one of the most intriguing urban centers in the American West, but also offers a broader tale over changing perceptions of Las Vegas and the region during the latter half of the 20th century. We here at BlogWest wish to congratulate the award winning authors, and hopefully add to your summer reading list.