Did you know it’s Indiana’s 200th birthday this year? If you didn’t, you ain’t from around these parts, because oh boy, the Hoosier Industrial Complex, she is a’booming. And of all the crap being produced this year, this book is decidedly in the less-stupid half.
The angle of this book is history-themed road trip guide, and it’s written by an Indiana high school history teacher under the auspices of the Indiana Historical Society, and while a lot people might poo-poo a history book written by a high school teacher, I think her unique perspective on Indiana history is actually what makes this book excellent. Just think: this woman teaches the exact same history to a shifting sea of unhappy children every year, over and over forever, Historical Groundhog Day. Wuugghgh. But her annual repetition and constant distillation of all that is INDIANA down to its (common) core parts for children, it really gives her a unique broad-picture view of public history in the state as well as a grasp of what is and isn’t interesting. The book has some really finely selected physically-visitable high points for the state, with balance between the unique Native American history and prehistory here, to covering the important Black history that happened in Indiana both before and after slavery, and then of course some of your usual Log Cabiny White settlers history. But it’s a thoroughly modern public history book in its balance. So the book will suggest things like walking some of the stretches of the old bison migratory path that are still accessible and then also invites you to visit the remaining patches of the Indiana Canal and contemplate it’s unexpected legacy to the state (tl;dr it’s the reason why Indiana is constitutionally prohibited from going into debt.)
The only problem with the book? A lot of the most important historical sites don’t even qualify as wide spots in the road, and this road trip, were you to execute it in its entirety, would be extremely lame. I mean, Mary Clark is super cool and important, but is anyone with literally anything else to do in their life going to drive to see just a historical marker? Hell no. Also some of the most important historical events of the state simply aren’t physical. How do you select a site to exemplify the fiscal importance of Unigov? It's probably the single most important event in the history of modern Indianapolis (and by extension Indiana) history, but how do you visit the concept of “kill the sprawl by becoming the sprawl?” I, being a smart ass, would direct you to visit St. Louis, she directs you to visit 28th floor of the City-County building, the same glamorous venue where you apply for a marriage license and other such civic sundries, and which will also confiscate any tweezers you may have in your makeup bag which is annoying. I suppose this is the most fair selection you can make, but damn that's a crap place to visit. In general she favored Good History over Good Tourism though, and I respect that enormously, even if I’m not driving to visit a historical marker, like ever.