A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca (Paperback)

A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca By Andrés Reséndez Cover Image
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From a Bancroft Prize-winning historian, the "gripping" tale of a shipwrecked Spaniard who walked across America in the sixteenth century (Financial Times)

In 1528, a mission set out from Spain to colonize Florida. But the expedition went horribly wrong: Delayed by a hurricane, knocked off course by a colossal error of navigation, and ultimately doomed by a disastrous decision to separate the men from their ships, the mission quickly became a desperate journey of survival. Of the four hundred men who had embarked on the voyage, only four survived-three Spaniards and an African slave. This tiny band endured a horrific march through Florida, a harrowing raft passage across the Louisiana coast, and years of enslavement in the American Southwest. They journeyed for almost ten years in search of the Pacific Ocean that would guide them home, and they were forever changed by their experience. The men lived with a variety of nomadic Indians and learned several indigenous languages. They saw lands, peoples, plants, and animals that no outsider had ever before seen. In this enthralling tale of four castaways wandering in an unknown land, Andrés Reséndez brings to life the vast, dynamic world of North America just a few years before European settlers would transform it forever.

About the Author

Andrés Reséndez is Professor of History at the University of California, Davis. His book The Other Slavery won the Bancroft Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award. He is most recently the author of Conquering the Pacific: An Unknown Mariner and the Final Great Voyage of the Age of Discovery. He lives in Davis, California, with his family.

Praise For…

"Once you start this book, it's nearly impossible to put it down." —Carolyn See, Washington Post Book World

“I’m loving this book.”—Joe Rogan

"Reséndez's story is so riveting you'll wonder why so many history books ignore it."—Entertainment Weekly

"The story of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, and of his accidental journey across the American continent, is one of the most remarkable feats of endurance ever recorded.... Reséndez tells this gripping story with zeal.... It is impossible not to be swept along by his enthusiasm." —Financial Times

"[Reséndez's] indefatigable scholarship, knowledge of the context, and craftsmanlike storytelling provide a model account: concise, solid, moving." —Times Literary Supplement

"The accidental journey of Cabeza de Vaca and his companions across North America is one of the epics of the Age of Exploration. Andrés Reséndez recounts the story in broad context and riveting detail, capturing the lofty, base, cunning, fatuous, cowardly, and heroic actions and motives of an improbable cast of astonishing characters." —H.W. Brands, author of Our First Civil War: Patriots and Loyalists in the American Revolution

"Reséndez's brisk historical narrative cries out for novelisation." —Times (U.K.)

"Reséndez ... shows how Cortez, de Soto and other would-be conquistadors schemed for their kingdoms in the New World like investors jockeying for IPOs." —Wall Street Journal

"An extraordinary adventure story (which) offers a very different sort of paradigm for Europe's encounter with the Americas." —The Scotsman

"Andrés Reséndez's new interpretation of this uncanny ordeal of human survival comprehensively reveals the adventure in almost seamless, highly readable prose. He provides a clear background of the politics of the Spanish Conquest, then spins a yarn of unimaginable hardship and a testament to endurance that elicits head-shaking disbelief on almost every page. Amazingly, all of it is true ... Mr. Reséndez's new telling of this astounding tale entertains and captivates from the first page." —Dallas Morning News

"[Reséndez's] voice is original, his writing lucid and gripping." —Miami Herald

"[I]t is Reséndez's clever rewriting of his ordeal—as a survivor's tale—that is most memorable."—Texas Monthly

"Reséndez creates a gripping narrative of one of the most amazing survival stories of all time." —Library Journal (starred review)

"[Reséndez] misses nothing in telling this riveting quest for gold and glory: prickly pears, pecan nuts, and other plants new to Europeans; migrant tribes in the daily search for food; massacres and treks of naked men across hundreds of miles; and the jealousies and cabals among men like rich fat Diego Velazquez of Cuba; the fierce adventurer and expedition commander Panfilo de Narvaez (who died at sea on a makeshift raft after his coastal 'invasion' of Florida killed virtually all of his men); the rapacious Hernan Cortes who decimated the Aztecs; and various greedy bishops and friars ... This is must and wonderful reading for anyone interested in our mutual histories at a time when Europeans came upon a new world and found themselves irrevocably transformed." —Providence Journal

"Reséndez is a marvelous storyteller who makes you feel like you are there—even if you're really just lying on the couch." —American Way Magazine

"One of [the survivors], Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, the royal treasurer for the trip, wrote a narrative of his adventures, published in 1542. He survived along with two other Spaniards and an African slave. The three Spaniards also issued what became known as the Joint Report. The story that Reséndez (a history professor at the University of California at Davis) tells is woven largely from these two famous accounts, although he interprets them with fresh eyes. He also brings a breadth of knowledge to his story, stopping often for welcome excursions into such subjects as the weather patterns of the period or how one navigates (or in Miruelo's case, fails to navigate) by dead reckoning. The generous elaborations in his endnotes almost form a second narrative." —American Scholar

"Reséndez's graceful tale of four men who came to accept a new land on its own terms is itself a marvel to behold." —Houston Chronicle

"Reséndez proves a patient storyteller, employing effective prose hand in hand with the tools of a scholar, including many maps, excellent footnotes and a terrific Further Reading section. The experiences of one of the first outsiders to see the American Southwest still prove fresh and pertinent." —Kirkus

"A riveting account of the epic journey ... Told from an intriguing and original perspective, Reséndez's narrative is a marvelous addition to the corpus of survival and adventure literature." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Andrés Reséndez has written a definitive account of the remarkable overland journey of Cabeza de Vaca across 16th-century America. This important book brings a seminal yet neglected historical figure into a broad perspective. Displaying impressive skills as one of a new generation of narrative historians, Reséndez tells a compelling story about a little-known chapter in American history. A Land So Strange is destined to become the standard work on the extraordinary journey of this courageous explorer." —Brian Fagan, author of The Little Ice Age

Product Details
ISBN: 9780465068418
ISBN-10: 0465068413
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication Date: January 6th, 2009
Pages: 336
Language: English

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