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Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe

Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe

by Kate Buford


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The first comprehensive biography of the legendary figure who defined excellence in American sports: Jim Thorpe, arguably the greatest all-around athlete in U.S. history.

With clarity and an eye for detail, Kate Buford traces the pivotal moments of Thorpe’s incomparable career: growing up in the tumultuous Indian Territory of Oklahoma; leading the Carlisle Indian Industrial School football team to victories against the country’s finest college teams; winning gold medals in the 1912 Olympics pentathlon and decathlon; defining the burgeoning sport of professional football; and playing long, often successful—and previously unexamined—years in professional baseball.

At the same time, however, Buford recounts the difficulties Thorpe faced as a Native American. We also see the infamous loss of his Olympic medals, stripped from him because he had previously played professional baseball, an event that would haunt Thorpe for the rest of his life. We see his struggles with alcoholism and personal misfortune, and how he came to distrust many of the hands extended to him. We learn the details of his vigorous advocacy for Native American rights while he chased a Hollywood career, and the truth behind the supposed reinstatement of his Olympic record in 1982.

Here is the story of a complex, iconoclastic, profoundly talented man whose life encompassed both tragic limitations and truly extraordinary achievements.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780803240896
Publisher: UNP - Bison Books
Publication date: 03/01/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 334,563
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Kate Buford is the author of Burt Lancaster: An American Life. She has written for the New York Times and has been a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition and American Public Media’s Marketplace.

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Beginnings - Oklahoma Territory - 1887-1904
Chapter Two: Discovery - Winter 1904-Summer 1907
Chapter Three: Warm-up - Fall 1907-Spring 1909
Chapter Four: The Minors - Summer 1909-Summer 1911
Chapter Five: Football Phenom - Fall 1911-Spring 1912
Chapter Six: The Most Wonderful Athlete in the World - Summer-Fall 1912
Chapter Seven: The Public Glare - 1913-1914
Chapter Eight: The Majors and Ohio - 1915-1919
Chapter Nine: Out of the Public Glare - 1920-1929
Chapter Ten: Hollywood - 1930-1939
Chapter Eleven: Divorce, World War, and River Rouge - 1939-1945
Chapter Twelve: Rediscovery - 1945-1953
Epilogue - 1953-1983
Selected Bibliography

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Diligently researched . . . Buford lays firm, clear historical groundwork for the reservation life and Indian world in which Thorpe grew up . . . Thorpe, in Buford’s account a likable and engaging if feckless man, seems tragically destined to wander forever, the fastest itinerant in the world.”
            -Jay Jennings, The New York Times Book Review
“A professional biographer has proved what sound research and skillful writing can do: reveal a singular man, animate the times of his life, and illuminate the complexities of our world today, which Jim Thorpe helped to shape.”
            -American Heritage
“Compelling . . . Exhilarating . . . Buford is persuasive when she insists that, both for better and for worse, Jim Thorpe’s true story is indeed stranger than most fictional tales of rising and falling heroes.”
            -Michael R. Stevens, Christianity Today Books and Culture
“This is the definitive biography of a legendary figure in American history, in and out of sports . . . An essential purchase.”
            -Library Journal
“Buford . . . knows about mythic heroes and draws a complex portrait of Jim Thorpe: from his superhuman athletic talents to his all-too-human flaws.”           
           -Steven V. Roberts, The Washington Post
“This book is written with razor-sharp clarity, rock-solid scholarship, and a prose that is as elegantly executed as it is at times heartbreaking. Native American Son, meticulously researched, is a book that finally sets the record straight to provide justice at last to a legitimate American hero.”
            -Larry Cox, Tucson Citizen
“An absorbing American story.”
            -Steve Kaufman, Louisville Courier-Journal
 “Impeccably researched . . . This retrospective is not the first to tackle the complex life of Jim Thorpe, but it’s the most comprehensive . . . Captures Thorpe’s breathtaking highs and heartrending lows.”
“From the opening paragraphs I realized that Native American Son was going to be gripping and illuminating. Kate Buford not only tells us a great deal we never knew about a legitimate American icon, she tells us a great deal about an America of which we may not have been fully aware, and does so in splendid prose.”
           -Ira Berkow
“As an athlete, Jim Thorpe was a force of nature. His achievements, across the board, remain unsurpassed. For many years we have needed a fair and comprehensive story of his life. Now we have it. Kate Buford's biography of Thorpe is a first-rate example of the genre. She has written—with clarity, insight, objectivity, and inspiration—a definitive work. Here is an evocation of triumph and tragedy, ans a uniquely American story.”
            -N. Scott Momaday

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