Throughout the book, two separate stories become slowly entwined. The first is of Henry Washington, a young slave boy whose parents are brutally murdered by Confederate soldiers during a raid on the plantation where he lives. Henry is taken in by Bishop Jackson of the African Episcopal Church and lovingly raised at the orphanage run by the clergyman. From as early as he can remember, Henry wants to be a soldier and with the bishop's help is accepted into West Point. Henry undergoes the rigors of military training and the frustration of prejudiced classmates to emerge the first African American Army Officer. After graduation he is assigned to a cavalry unit and sent west into vicious battle with the Sioux Indians.
The second story is of Lone Wolf, a Sioux who chaffs at the incursion of white men into Indian territory. Lone Wolf leads attacks on settlers and military bases, capturing horses and, during one sortie, a Swedish woman who is pregnant. Lone Wolf raises her child as his own, teaching him the way of Native Americans. Over the course of the book, Lone Wolf transforms from a simple brave to a mighty warrior. In some respects, Henry and Lone Wolf are very similar. Both men belong to a race and culture that have suffered greatly at the hands of white Americans; both are brave men who seek to elevate themselves; both havechosen the life of a fighter, and their comrades are the only real family they have. What most clearly differentiates the two men are their goals and how they seek to attain them. Henry's battle is mostly an internal one: He seeks to build his character, become an honorable man, a gentleman, and an effective soldier. Lone Wolf seeks power and recognition: He wants everyone to acknowledge him as the most powerful warrior, and his methods are cruel and ruthless. The setting of An American Soldier and the juxtaposition of its two main characters allow author Warren Reiten to explore a broad range of topics, from how cultures define themselves and others, to the characteristics and values of the ideal individual.
The story is wellstructured and engaging, but there are a few rough edges. Dialogue among the characters can be wooden and unconvincing. Reiten boldly chose for his characters to speak in distinctive dialects, but the somewhat sloppy, southern accent for the slaves, and the clipped, staccato accent devoid of articles for the Indians, come across as crass stereotypes.
This report prepared by eyal