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On the Trail of the Ancestors: A Black Cowboy's Ride Across America Paperback – February 11, 2012
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About the Author
Lisa K. Winkler is a journalist and an educator. She met Miles Dean while serving as a literacy consultant in Newark, NJ. When she heard about his cross-country journey on horseback, she became fascinated by the history she never knew. Her curiosity landed her an assignment to research black jockeys, culminating in “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian magazine’s website (April 24, 2009). Her other writing includes two essays published in book anthologies; one in I’m Going to College- Not You!: Surviving the College Search with My Child (St. Martin’s Press, 2010), and the other in Wisdom of our Mothers (Familia Press, 2010. A newspaper reporter (Danbury News-Times, CT), before becoming a teacher, Lisa writes for professional journals and for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. Among her interviewees - who include authors, college presidents, scientists, and artists - was Miles Dean in February, 2009. She has written several teacher study guides for Penguin Books. She holds a BA from Vassar College and an MA in Urban Education from New Jersey City University. An avid reader, knitter, and cyclist, she lives with her husband in the greater New York area and has three grown children.
Top customer reviews
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In spite of extensive planning Miles experiences the difficulties of the actual horseback ride across motorized America, along with the exuberance of meeting welcoming strangers in every place. Readers learn along with Miles about various famous African-Americans, who were firsts in fields that don't make the history books, such as horse jockeys or cowboys. Rather than being a chronological history, this is a geographical history. Every locale has its heroes and heroines, and they fit into various historical time frames. The focus of this book is on African-American heroes from each stop along the way, so there might be a Civil War hero, and a country singer in the same location.
Winkler's mini-biography easily meets the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts, since students will be required to read greater percentages of nonfiction texts. This is a book that will interest students, particularly ones who like horses and cowboys. Teachers are often looking for books that will appeal to disenfranchised students. This book is the perfect hook for African-American males, statistically having the largest percentage of students in this category. Miles, the rider, is the first hero, attempting this difficult trip at age 57, and overcoming obstacle after obstacle, persevering until he completes his goal. Then meeting all the unsung African-American heroes along Mile's historic epic gives students a sense of belonging and contributing to the history of the United States that is so essential for creating future citizens of this nation.
The ride on which this book escorts the reader goes beyond exposing the faults of the country to forgiveness, and allows students to see how people of different ethnicities contributed to the success of Miles' journey. The reader is not encouraged to forget history or cover it up, but maturely go beyond its faults and take advantage of new opportunities. Readers realize that they stand on the backs of heroes who paved the way for their success, and move forward to create a better world.
From the very beginning I was riding along on this amazing trip. The author does not overplay the excitement, nor does she avoid the challenges. It takes planning and work to follow one's dream.
Without repeating other reviews on the details, this book satisfies on inspiration and history. Memories came to mind of our drive from Massachusetts to CA with two teenagers. The stares we got were directed at our license plate. We had friends to stay with and family at the end. I will never forget the crowd of hotel employees in San Francisco who said they rarely see MA plates. I cannot imagine how much curiosity riding on a horse would stir up.
I took an old book with WPA research of roads built before interstates. It had cost $0.10! Each mile along these quaint state and county roads was described with extra points of interest. We would never have arrived at our destination if I had been allowed to direct us to every waterfall, statue and museum.
Like this cowboy, we strayed sufficiently to make the trip interesting and educational. My daughter kept her travel journal. It captured the spirit of the adventure.
Miles Dean's descriptions of the historical sites kept me wondering. Where is he going next? Will he mention Cathay Williams as a Buffalo Soldier? Yes. How much is still in his journal? How much did the author have to research? I did not want him to come to the end of the journey.
What can you learn in addition to the tale?
It is rich in information about horses and today's cowboys. It can be a history resource for home and school. The author poses questions at the end for discussion and further study. She provides a bibliography and offers a study guide, if needed.
Who should read this book?
Fathers should read this aloud to their sons. Mothers and girls will love the story of how to follow your dreams. All will gain knowledge about the country and its unique history. Teachers and creative artists should find much material to build on. All will be enriched. I cannot wait for the movie!
Most recent customer reviews
Miles Dean was born in Brooklyn and lived in New Jersey in the 1950s, but from the time he was a kid he dreamed of being a cowboy.Read more