Joe S. Sando & Herman Agoyo, editors,
Po'Pay: Leader of the First American Revolution
(Clear Light, 2005)

Po'Pay: Leader of the First American Revolution is half a biography of a Native American and half a biography of his statue. And when I say half, I do mean an actual equivalent number of pages, though the statue part has heavy photographic support.

The first half of the book is the historical account of the Pueblo Revolt. This is an expanded version of the one in Pueblo Profiles. Author Joe Sando fleshed it out but used some portions verbatim. You will find that Sando has used the same drawings and simply credited that book. At least he did use a few different photographs by Marcia Keegan.

Sando's style is to include a statement from a high-ranking state official, a foreword, a preface, an afterword, an epilogue, an introduction and any other possible "label" for squeezing one more commentary by another of the same names in each book in between the current cover -- to the point of being a country mile past the points of ridiculous and absurd! I am all for giving Native Americans a voice, but do we have to hear the same voices in all things? Out of the 19 pueblos, could this man not have found a few different people to speak in this book? Enough of the official representatives of the pueblo people -- let's hear from the people now.

The second part of the book is a play-by-play and word-for-word history of the statue of Po'Pay from the moment that Herman Agoyo's wife suggested the statue to the last word spoken about it by anyone. Sando has included every letter written about it, every dedication ceremony, every pueblo council certification of support and so forth. While these are certainly things that will appeal to the pueblo people and some New Mexico residents, this is not a book that has mass-market appeal by any stretch of the imagination.

This is a study in how to not write a book about something. It is possible to get so caught up in documenting every time somebody coughs in a council meeting that your reader becomes bored to tears. It is possible to turn off your reader as soon as they realize that you were too lazy to even paraphrase your previous work before sticking it into this latest edition of "praise our leaders." Sando has managed these feats with ease in this book.

I cannot recommend Po'Pay: Leader of the First American Revolution as a fair value for your money unless you have not read any of Sando's previous work. Still, do you really was more than a hundred pages of who stumped their toe while getting this statue approved, created and delivered?

review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

22 November 2008

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