The True West & Forgotten Founders (Mifflin Lowe)

Hello, friends! Our books today are The True West and Forgotten Founders, written by Mifflin Lowe and illustrated by Wiliam Luong, a set of anthology titles that seek to illuminate forgotten heroes.

When we think of cowboys, what do we think of? Or how about the rebels of the American Revolution? The sad fact is that when the history books get written, women and minorities tend to be left out, even if they played pivotal roles in how history was made! These titles shine a light on some of the forgotten figures who shaped the early days of the United States as well as the American West; women, BIPOC, and more.

Ambitious yet uneven. The core concept of biographical compilations like these are solid, and I love any book that covers lesser-known heroes such as Sybil Ludington, Bass Reeves, or Jackson Sundown; I also learned about quite a few more figures I’d never heard of. Yet while both books have noble, and necessary, intentions, their execution is uneven at times and incomplete at others. First, despite being billed as a more inclusive look at history, mention of LGBTQ+ identities are nonexistent; for instance, Baron von Stueben, a publicly gay military leader who played a major part in organizing the first Continental Army, is only briefly mentioned (his sexuality is not). Uncomfortable truths, such as slavery and indigenous genocide, are breezed over quickly or ignored entirely, such as in the entry about the Escalante Expedition, which led to the construction of the Californian Spanish missions. The inclusion of entries on Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody, both relatively well-known white male historical figures, is puzzling. So while the artwork and design of the books are stunning, the written content feels incomplete. We did enjoy perusing both titles, and we did learn a lot, but I couldn’t help but notice the missed opportunities for representing history through a more honest and inclusive lens. Still, while I wouldn’t call these perfect, they are absolutely worth the read: they do give a great deal of insight into some the forgotten elements of both eras. So overall, Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: Copies of these books were provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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