In Illicit Love: Interracial Sex and Marriage in the United States and Australia, Ann McGrath offers a comparative study of intimate relations between indigenous peoples and European colonizers in North America and Australia. She focuses on two indigenous communities: the Cherokees in the early nineteenth century and the aborigines of North Queensland in the late nineteenth century. McGrath argues that although interracial unions sometimes allowed indigenous communities greater influence in white worlds, they were not solely pragmatic or strategic. Instead, intermarriage often derived from love, or “tender emotions.” As love crossed sociocultural boundaries, it destabilized the social order imposed by colonizers.

McGrath articulates her argument most clearly in biographical chapters on individual love stories. Chapter 1 examines the relationship between Cherokee scholar Elias Boudinot and a nineteen-year-old white woman from New England, Harriet Gold. Chapter 2 discusses an affair between Methodist...

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