"It is rare for a work of political passion to be such a well-told story. The book is inquisitive and sympathetic, artful not dour, worried about political overreach but going for it nonetheless."
"[This] important new book ... could easily be categorized as Environmental History or Native Studies. But Puglionesi forges a book that is more than either field could accomplish alone."
— New Books Network
"Puglionesi makes a perfect guide through the strange myths, characters, and environments that best reflect the insidious exploitation inseparable from American dominion ... [A] convincing and illuminating reading of American history and land."
—Chicago Review of Books
"A novel reading of American history as an endless chain of ideologically sanctioned extractions from the land ... Page after page, Puglionesi finds some strange twist on history used to justify theft and genocide, and it makes for a fascinating tale. A first-rate work of historical research and storytelling.
—Kirkus, STARRED review
"The ravages of Manifest Destiny constitute much of America's story. This narrative history from poet, professor, and scholar Puglionesi delves into how white settlers found resources on Native land and overtook it for capitalistic gain, focusing on four geographic areas ... Puglionesi's book ought to be widely studied."
—Booklist, STARRED review
"[A] thought-provoking study of four geographical sites whose exploitation by white settlers helped create a mythology legitimizing their dominion over the country and its Indigenous inhabitants ... Puglionesi writes lucidly and packs the narrative full of intriguing minutiae … this is a stimulating look at the erasure and endurance of Native American culture."
"Few books by historians, particularly historians of science and technology, are page turners, but In Whose Ruins
is just that. This is an elegantly written narrative of the mythologies and horrors of settler-colonialism in the founding and expansion of the United States, exterminating or displacing the Indigenous nations of the continent. It is a history of the present." —Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States
"In Whose Ruins
is a haunting meditation on how white Americans have dug into the earth to uncover the past and secure their own power. Alicia Puglionesi takes readers across the nation to these sites of excavation, places seized from Native peoples and turned to ruin. Compelling and insightful, In Whose Ruins
gives us a new way to understand how Americans created an empire out of destruction." — Megan Kate Nelson, author of Saving Yellowstone: Exploration and Preservation in Reconstruction America
"In Whose Ruins
could not be more timely. As our nation once again battles over the meanings and uses of history, Puglionesi shines a bright light on the role of myth in the construction of American empire. White Americans, she convincingly demonstrates, mapped specious stories onto Indigenous landscapes to bolster their claims to material and racial supremacy. In Whose Ruins
is a triumph of excavation—not just of the histories that have been purposely buried, but of the power of narrative to shape our world." — Blain Roberts and Ethan J. Kytle, coauthors of Denmark Vesey’s Garden: Slavery and Memory in Cradle of the Confederacy
“Original, illuminating, and bristling with insight, In Whose Ruins
is a thought-provoking exploration into the meaning of the American land. By focusing on some largely forgotten episodes of the quest for power in the nation’s past—and the swindlers, scientists, and visionaries who populated them—Alicia Puglionesi has delivered a timely, deftly written, and convention-challenging book.” —Scott Ellsworth, author of The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice
"Puglionesi's In Whose Ruins
is a masterful truth-telling of North American colonial history, shattering the contrived myths created to justify the oppression, abnegation and elimination of Indigenous people. This adept writer and historian reminds us how white settlers lied to each other and their children to justify their violence, and how those old stories still complicate our understanding of the United States' founding. Readers will learn how early immigrants turned Native American burial mounds into proof of an extinct white civilization, their medicinal salve into petroleum, their sacred places into hydroelectric power, and their mysterious rocks into nuclear weapons. In Whose Ruins
resets the historical narrative, which is exactly what we need today for our society to move forward in peace and with justice." —Chris Tomlinson, columnist and author of New York Times bestsellers Forget the Alamo and Tomlinson Hill
"Amid extreme weather, deadly pandemic, political discontent, and economic volatility, it is tempting to seek the origin, whether as comforting nostalgia or an always-already tale of damnation. As Puglionesi’s book shows, however, origins are stories told in the present that acquire force by transforming brutal domination into neat narratives. Beneath them is messy history, bursting with competing claims and interests. Especially in a settler colonial society like the United States, conquest of people, land, and collective memory itself has been enabled and justified by layers upon layers of origin stories, producing a sediment so thick it can be hard to think otherwise. But this gracefully written book is a testament to thinking otherwise, to uncovering both the horror and the beautiful struggle for a different world hiding beneath the myths." —Thea Riofrancos, author of A Planet to Win and Resource Radicals
"Through razor-sharp focus on select sites of its extraction, In Whose Ruins
asks searing questions about this society’s two-century-long quest for power—material and political, revealing the deep psychological scars, haunting dreams and cruel designs, and deathly consequences it has generated along the way. Alicia Puglionesi’s brilliant study of energy’s outsized hold on the soul of the nation is both poetic in its affective rendering of a hidden human-ecological past with consequence and prophetic in its urgent call for us to confront that tough history as a first step toward the imagining of a sustainable future." —Darren Dochuk, author of Anointed With Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America
"In Whose Ruins
is popular history at its engaging best. Centering formative events and key discourses many Americans would prefer to forget, Puglionesi examines the intertwined processes of Indigenous dispossession and environmental degradation at the foundations of US empire and contemporary racial capitalism. As important, she foregrounds vital perspectives typically marginalized or simply erased from dominant narratives. The myth of a “lost” race of prehistoric Mound Builders is met with knowledge of ongoing Indigenous engagements with ancient sites and the building of new Indigenous earthworks in the twenty-first century." —Chadwick Allen, author of Earthworks Rising: Mound Building in Native Literature and Arts