Published: Susan Lee Johnson

Susan Lee Johnson (History) is the author of Writing Kit Carson: Fallen Heroes in a Changing West (University of North Carolina Press), a critical biography that braids lives together over time and space, telling tales of two white women who, in the 1960s, produced books about frontiersman Kit Carson — Quantrille McClung, a Denver librarian, and Kansas-born but Washington D.C.- and Chicago-based Bernice Blackwelder, who sang on stage and radio and worked for the CIA before starting to write. In the 1970s, as figures like Carson were falling from grace, these amateur historians kept researching western white men, including those who married Indigenous women and mexicanas, just as Carson had wed Singing Grass, Making Out Road, and Josefa Jaramillo. This multilayered biography explores relationships between women historians and male historical subjects and between history buffs and professional historians. It uncovers the practice of history in the context of everyday life, the seductions of gender in the context of racialized power, and the contours of 20th-century relationships predicated on nineteenth-century pasts. On the surface, it tells of lives tangled across generation and geography. Underneath run questions about how we know about the past and how that knowledge is shaped by the conditions of our knowing. Johnson holds the Harry Reid Endowed Chair in the History of the Intermountain West.


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