One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd - Jim Fergus One Thousand White Women is a scary title. It makes me think of the White Walkers in Game of Thrones.

All these zombified women walking across the plains looking for Indians to chomp on assimilate. In way, I think my alternate history story is not as farfetched as Fergus' story, but I digress. The title is a real turn off for me, but since my group Historical Fictionistas chose this as a group read I decided to give it a try.

From the beginning Fergus lets his readers know that this story is a 'what if' that never came to pass. It's based on the story of a Cheyenne chief who requested 1,000 white women as brides for his warriors. The thought is that since the Cheyenne society is matrilineal, the children produced from these unions would help the tribe assimilate into the white man's world. In real life, the request was denied but in the fictional world Fergus explores the consequences of this request through the eyes of a white woman named May Dodd. While I can certainly appreciate Fergus’ take on the “what if” this request came to pass, I didn’t enjoy this book. It was one of those cases where the idea sounded great, but the execution was poor. Very poor.

One thing that bothered me was the narrative style. True to its subtitle, the book is written in journal form. I don’t normally like this style of narration, but I was willing to go with it. The problem I had with May’s journals is that they weren’t so much journal entries, but dated mini stories. These “journal entries” had pages of dialogue, currently happening events and details included. It’s like Fergus never read a journal in his life. Even the letters that May wrote to her sister and ex-husband were in actuality mini stories. May recounts every little detail from the scenery to what everybody in the conversation said. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the dialogue is so freaking racist and stereotypical. I just. CAN’T. EVEN.

Okay, let me just take a deep breath and give you an example. This is Gretchen, the Swedish woman, in the group. By the way, the italicized text appears in the book as is:

'Gretchen Fathauer stood, solid as a house, her hands on her broad hips, eyes squinted against the sun. Finally she raised her fist in the air, and shook it as if to get their attention, and cried out. “Yah! All you fellas there! I am a goot woman! I make someone of you a goot wife.” And she pounded her breast. “I yam not a pretty girl but I make bick strong babies!” And she laughed, bellowing like a cow.' p. 102

EVERY character with an accent speaks lik dis. Every.Single.One. Plus, they all play into the stereotypes of their culture. For example, Phemie, the only African American in the group is portrayed as a warrior African queen. She walks about half naked showing off her flawless cocoa skin and breasts as she rides with the men. What’s so ironic about Fergus May writing the dialogue like this is that she prides herself in being so modern and all inclusive, yet she acts like a stereotypical, judgmental white woman.

This was another thing that bothered me: May. When you can’t stand the main character you know you have problems. At first we’re supposed to be sympathetic towards May and you know, I was. It was unfair the reasons why she was put in an asylum. But, rather than moving on she kept dwelling and repeating those reasons. It just became repetitive and I became unsympathetic. I think Fergus was trying to show how May was still bitter, but it just got on my nerves, especially with all the other crap she spewed.

One point that was made during the HF discussion was that May came off as too modern. I have to agree and add that so did some of the other women. I hated how May would barge herself in situations, especially with the Indians. For example, there was a certain place where women weren’t allowed, so May talked another one of the women into walking right in and sitting down. The Indians protested a bit and then just left them be. Sorry, but this is bullshit. I don’t think she would have gotten a free pass to be so arrogant and disrespectful of rules just because she was a white woman.

The only portions I enjoyed were the scenery descriptions. I think Fergus did a wonderful job of putting the reader into the scene. Too bad the rest didn’t come together.