A year ago, an industrious group of North Platte women began searching for a great book that they could encourage others to read.
They worked by the mantra, “The only thing better than reading a good book is having someone with whom to share it.”
On Sunday, they announced their choice.
The book is A Warrior of the People by Joe Starita, a UNL journalism professor and two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee.
The book tells the story of Susan LaFlesche Picotte, a member of the Omaha tribe who earned a medical degree in 1889. LaFlesche not only provided much needed medical care to Native Americans, a hospital was built in her name. She spent her life bridging cultural conflicts with an overwhelming desire to help others.
LaFlesche became a doctor 31 years before women were allowed to vote, and 35 years before Native Americans were considered to be citizens of the United States. The book covers LaFlesche’s life from 1865 to 1915, as well as some succeeding events.
In a brief video appearance at the announcement Sunday, Starita said the story is particularly apt today, when more women than ever have been elected to Congress, including two Native Americans.
Mayor Dwight Livingston signed a proclamation officially proclaiming A Warrior of the People as North Platte’s selection. The organizing committee said they will promote it to book clubs and the general public, holding discussions about the book in the coming year.
There were 150 books nominated. Suggestions were gathered from the community with boxes in businesses and public buildings around Lincoln County. The suggestions were narrowed to 50. A dozen readers split the job of reading the books and evaluating the plots, character development, theme, writing styles and social significance.
Three books were rated best by the readers, including Bones of Paradise by Jonis Agee, a story of settlers in the Sandhills. That story starts a decade after the Wounded Knee Massacre, when a white rancher and Native American woman are murdered.
The other nominee was The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore, about the development of electric light in the United States, and the struggle between George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison over patents and financial proceeds.
It was difficult to pick one book, organizer Brenda Robinson said. After consideration, all six members of the organizing committee preferred A Warrior of the People, in large part because of its story of sacrifice and service to the community.
About 30 people attended the One Book announcement, which was held in the Martin Cordes building at St. Pat’s Catholic schools.
The organizers call themselves One Book for North Platte: Lincoln County Reads.
Starita wrote two other books about Native Americans in Nebraska – one about The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge – A Lakota Odyssey — the story of one Lakota family that has lived on the Pine Ridge reservation for five generations.
Starita’s other book (I Am A Man) is about Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca nation, who in 1879 convinced a U.S. federal court that he was legally a man.
Before Starita moved to Nebraska, he was a Pulitzer Prize nominee as a reporter for the Miami Herald, investigating unethical doctors and lawyers. His book about the Dull Knifes was also nominated for a Pulitzer.
Three years ago, Starita started a college scholarship fund for Native American high school graduates. Profits from the sale of Warrior of the People will be donated to the scholarship, organizer Sherry Polk said.
The group looks forward to selecting another book next year. Several children’s and young adult books were nominated this year, as well as adult books, member Brenda Robinson said, which might be considered again.