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Empire of the Summer Moon

Empire of the Summer Moon

Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History

  • reading group guide
  • bestseller
  • freshman reading
In the tradition of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a stunningly vivid historical account of the forty-year battle between Comanche Indians and white settlers for control of the American West, centering on Quanah, the greatest Comanche chief of them all.

S. C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moonspans two astonishing stories. The first traces the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history. The second entails one of the most remarkable narratives ever to come out of the Old West: the epic saga of the pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker and her mixed-blood son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches.

Although readers may be more familiar with the tribal names Apache and Sioux, it was in fact the legendary fighting ability of the Comanches that determined just how and when the American West opened up. Comanche boys became adept bareback riders by age six; full Comanche braves were considered the best horsemen who ever rode. They were so masterful at war and so skillful with their arrows and lances that they stopped the northern drive of colonial Spain from Mexico and halted the French expansion westward from Louisiana. White settlers arriving in Texas from the eastern United States were surprised to find the frontier being rolled backward by Comanches incensed by the invasion of their tribal lands. So effective were the Comanches that they forced the creation of the Texas Rangers and account for the advent of the new weapon specifically designed to fight them: the six-gun.

The war with the Comanches lasted four decades, in effect holding up the development of the new American nation. Gwynne’s exhilarating account delivers a sweeping narrative that encompasses Spanish colonialism, the Civil War, the destruction of the buffalo herds, and the arrival of the railroads—a historical feast for anyone interested in how the United States came into being.

Against this backdrop Gwynne presents the compelling drama of Cynthia Ann Parker, a lovely nine-year-old girl with cornflower-blue eyes who was kidnapped by Comanches from the far Texas frontier in 1836. She grew to love her captors and became infamous as the “White Squaw” who refused to return until her tragic capture by Texas Rangers in 1860. More famous still was her son Quanah, a warrior who was never defeated and whose guerrilla wars in the Texas Panhandle made him a legend.

S. C. Gwynne’s account of these events is meticulously researched, intellectually provocative, and, above all, thrillingly told. Empire of the Summer Moon announces him as a major new writer of American history.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 384 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416591061 | 
  • May 2011
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Video

The Rise and Fall of the Comanches

Empire of the Summer Moon author, S.C. Gwynne, talks about the Comanches, the most powerful and influential tribe in American history.

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Empire of the Summer Moon includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.



INTRODUCTION


Empire of the Summer Moon
is a stunning historical account of the forty-year battle for control of the American West and of one of its most remarkable narratives: the century-spanning saga of the pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker and her half-white son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanche.

TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION


  1. In chapter four, Gwynne compares the Comanche warriors to the Celts, and later, in chapter five, to the Spartans. Both were war-driven cultures that prided themselves on being more fearless than their opponents. Can you think of any other historical cultures that remind you of the Comanche? Do you think it is fair to identify this tribe solely based on their ability to wage and win wars?
  2. A journalist by trade, Gwynne maintains impartiality throughout the book. Although it is difficult not to sympathize with the Comanche and their ultimate fate, they were notorious for their extreme violence toward all who stood in their way. How are you able to reconc
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About the Author

S. C. Gwynne
Photograph © Corey Arnold

S. C. Gwynne

S.C. Gwynne is the author of the New York Times bestseller Empire of the Summer Moon, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National BookCritics Circle Award. He spent most of his career as a journalist, including stintswith Time as bureau chief, national correspondent, and senior editor, and with Texas Monthly as executive editor. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife anddaughter.

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