Book Review: Blood Brothers

This book does a superb job of capturing the essence of these two great Americans and their shared love of the American West

<i>Blood Brothers</i>

William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody and Dakota medicine man Sitting Bull were first bound together by shared mortal combat during the Plains Indian Wars (1860-1890). The two were already embedded in American history before their living legends morphed into mythological celebrity, synchronized, and united them to create the genesis of American show business. Showman P.T. Barnum introduced the circus to the world, but the genetic coding of the "greatest show on Earth" was essentially European, born in Rome's coliseum with early Christians and African animals on the bill. The DNA of Buffalo Bill's Wild West was absolutely American. Rising in tandem with American prestige on the global stage, the Wild West played to unprecedented numbers of people for more than 30 years, and its memory lingers in the American rodeo. Moreover, peaking at the birth of the motion picture industry, the psychological impact of the Wild West on the American personality continues to resonate throughout our national mythology; America has never had "Northerns, Southerns, or Easterns"; from The Great Train Robbery to Avatar and Westworld, our country's morality play has been the Western. Deanne Stillman's splendid Blood Brothers: The Story of the Strange Friendship Between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill eloquently explores the clash of cultures on the Great Plains that initially united the two legends and how this shared experience contributed to the creation of their ironic political alliance. Stillman searches behind the complex mythologies surrounding Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull to offer the reality of their lives and times, the social settings that shaped them, their victories and losses, their triumphs and tragedies. A strong sense of the spiritual power of place streams throughout Blood Brothers. Stillman poetically expresses the electric feeling of standing on sacred historical ground and, nourished by deep, compassionate research into the history of that place, being able to "picture" and describe what happened there. Her focus on this spiritual aspect of the land itself offers sensitive insight into Plains Indian contributions to the success of the Wild West. Accomplishing this, Stillman illuminates the most important connection that bound Cody and Sitting Bull: a shared love of place, the sacred American West. Instinctively following this insight, she has done a superb job capturing the essence of these two great Americans.

Blood Brothers: The Story of the Strange Friendship Between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill

by Deanne Stillman
Simon and Schuster, 304 pp., $27

Deanne Stillman will discuss Blood Brothers Sun., Nov. 5, 11am, at the Texas Tent, Eighth & Congress.

  • Texas Book Festival 2017

    Lovers of the literary, you’re needed at the Capitol for this year’s TBF, stat!
  • Uncommon Type: Some Stories

    A funny and creative short fiction debut that’s strong in portraying male characters but thin where the women are concerned

    Dinner at the Center of the Earth

    A riveting novel in which a Jewish American becomes and Israeli spy and then a traitor to his adopted country

    A Moonless, Starless Sky

    This journalist’s accounts of ordinary people seeking to create good in Africa is challenging, frightening, and powerful

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Texas Book Festival
New Janis Joplin Biography Favors Love Over Sensationalism
New Janis Joplin Biography Favors Love Over Sensationalism
Author Holly George-Warren shows the love in Janis: Her Life and Music

Tim Stegall, Oct. 25, 2019

Tim O'Brien's Love Letter to His Sons
Tim O'Brien's Love Letter to His Sons
In Dad's Maybe Book, the author of Going After Cacciato is going after fatherhood

Joe O'Connell, Oct. 25, 2019

More Texas Book Festival 2017
All Over the Map, True Heroes of Texas Music
All Over the Map, True Heroes of Texas Music

Kevin Curtin, June 16, 2017

Cornyation: San Antonio's Outrageous Fiesta Tradition
Cornyation: San Antonio's Outrageous Fiesta Tradition

Alejandra Ramirez, June 16, 2017

More Arts Reviews
<i>Running</i> by Natalia Sylvester
Running by Natalia Sylvester
Natalia Sylvester’s YA debut makes the political personal

Rosalind Faires, Oct. 30, 2020

<i>Murder on Cold Street</i> by Sherry Thomas
Murder on Cold Street by Sherry Thomas
Sherry Thomas' fifth outing in the Lady Sherlock series is as fascinating and feminist as ever

Oct. 9, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Texas Book Festival, Texas Book Festival 2017, Deanne Stillman, Blood Brothers: The Story of the Strange Friendship Between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill, Buffalo Bill Cody, Sitting Bull, Buffalo Bill's Wild West

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle