“Winter evenings in Native California villages were a time for storytelling,” John Mack Faragher explains in an early chapter of California: An American History. “Imagine a community of Konkows.…Mothers and children of the village gather at the…community’s ceremonial and spiritual center.…The children fall silent, watching the patterns of light and shadow cast by the flickering flames. Suddenly they hear a shrill tone, and looking up in the direction of the sound they see a dark figure emerging, as if by magic, through the smoke hole in the ceiling. It is Storyteller” (10). This introduction illustrates Faragher’s aim of providing a narrative for a general audience that is as captivating as Storyteller’s.

Faragher, Yale University Howard R. Lamar Professor Emeritus of History and American Studies and winner of multiple awards for books on the American West published over four decades, offers a lively, accessible one-volume history of California. The book’s...

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