Valley of the Moon
This 1846 story is about Maria Rosalia who lives in the area we now call California but at that time was part of Mexico. She is part-Spanish, part-Indian and an orphan, working as a servant for some moderately rich people who own their own ranch. She also has a brother, Domingo.
The story covers a lot of what transpires in her daily life as a servant, showing the type of work she has to do, along with showing that she is not treated badly at all by her employers. There's a lot about an older daughter of the ranch owner and her engagement and eventual marriage and the work Maria has to do to help prepare for the wedding feast.
Also, part of the story deals with Maria's desire to find out just who her mother was which leads to a very interesting development later in the story.
After that the story gets much darker, though, as there is question of war with the United States, squatters on the ranch lands and eventually a group of white men who arrest the leader of the area and go around pretty much wrecking havoc wherever they go.
The U.S. does attack and eventually takes the area from Mexico by force as part of the U.S./Mexican war, resulting in California becoming part of the U.S. Various problems for the family follow from that and the epilogue covers the events.
It's a good book but once again shows that the U.S. of the time was a very aggressive nation, developing a pattern of aggression with Mexico and Spain that did not end until the turn of the century and resulted in even another war, the Spanish-American war of 1898.
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