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Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe Paperback – March 1, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The bestselling author of "Encyclopedia an Ordinary Life" returns with a literary experience that is unprecedented, unforgettable, and explosively human. Hardcover | Kindle book
$19.82 FREE Shipping on orders with at least $25 of books. Only 7 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Buford (Burt Lancaster: An American Life) covers Thorpe's life of "high triumphs and bitter despair" in extensive detail. Thorpe (1888–1953), a "mixed-blood" Sac and Fox Indian from Oklahoma who starred for the legendary Carlisle, Pa., Indian school's college football team, won the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, prompting the king of Sweden to declare him "the most wonderful athlete in the world." The next year, however, Thorpe was stripped of his gold medals after it was discovered he had violated the amateur athletic code by playing minor league baseball. The loss haunted him throughout his hardscrabble life in which he abused alcohol, married three times, constantly needed money, and was an absentee father. His peripatetic story included myriad roles: avid hunter and fisherman; professional baseball player in the major and minor leagues; pro football player; bit actor with often degrading nonspeaking Indian roles in many westerns as well as in other movies, including King Kong; merchant marine during World War II; security guard at a Ford plant; bar and restaurant owner; supporter of American Indian causes; and regular speaker on the lecture circuit. Buford reports the facts and dispels many fictions about this American icon.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Buford gives a full account of the legend and tragedy of Native American sportsman Jim Thorpe, considered one of the greatest athletes of the twentieth century—ESPN picked him seventh, ahead of Willie Mays, Bill Russell, and Gordie Howe. Bill Crawford’s All American: The Rise and Fall of Jim Thorpe (2004) might be more popularly written, but Buford’s account, at some 170 more pages, brims with detail, all of it relevant to the telling, from the disastrous divvying up of Native American land that young Jim witnessed in 1890s Oklahoma; to Thorpe’s stellar performances in football, baseball, and track and field; to the stripping of his 1912 Olympics medals because he was paid to play baseball for two summers; and, finally, to the makeshift life he cobbled together after his playing days ended. Buford imparts a sense of the incandescent skills Thorpe applied to his sports, and the discrimination and self-destruction that shadowed him throughout his life. --Alan Moores --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books (March 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803240899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803240896
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Warner on February 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've always known this incredible story had, amazingly, never been written before by anyone other than someone in the 1950s, and was THE story ripe for a national best seller. I was so confident "The Jim Thorpe Story" had finally arrived when I learned of this new book that I sent a second copy to a professor friend sight unseen when I ordered mine. I knew it was going to be the one book I stayed up all night with and read cover-to-cover. A month later it's sitting on the stand, the bookmark about halfway through. The author has so much research into this that I'm puzzled by what a weak storyteller she is. I wanted it to be great...but it has no cadence, and is agonizingly deflating by what appears to be the author's lack of intuition on what is interesting and remarkable, and what isn't. There is less than a page, for instance, on the boat ride over to Stockholm for the Olympics. I don't even know how long it took. Odd blurt-outs such as "Jim was an excellent ballroom dancer" are editorialized remarks made in passing with no further comment. I asked my friend if it was me "just not getting it" and he hadn't finished the book either. Still, whenever I do finish it, I'll know so much more about the life and times of Jim Thorpe than I did before...I already do. It just wasn't the fun adventure.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a must-read book for anyone who cares about biography, history, sports, native Americans, Hollywood, or the human condition. It has it all in the form of the charismatic Jim Thorpe, a spectacular talent whose exploits would be hard to believe if such a trustworthy and gifted writer as Kate Buford weren't describing him. How could a football player catch his own punts?... have reactions "so fast that sometimes you couldn't follow them with the eye"?.... leave his nearest rivals so far in the dust one is tempted to think of Secretariat?... And how could someone as beloved as Thorpe been so unfairly stripped of his Olympic medals? In Buford's hands, the man's larger-than-life accomplishments and all-too-human failures and contradictions are balanced and given historical context-- and the reader can't help but mourn his passing.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Kate Buford has written what is likely to definitive biography of Jim Thorpe. Jim Thorpe is considered by many to be the greatest athlete of the 20th century. Thorpe was a part of the Sac and Fox tribe and grew up on a reservation in Oklahoma with a tough, alcoholic father. After running away from a number of boarding schools in his youth his father finally sent him to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The boarding school, dedicated to the education and acculturation of Indian youth into white society, is where Thorpe came under the tutelage of Glen Scobey "Pop" Warner who helped coach and guide him in track and football. Thorpe's biggest claim to fame was the infamous gold medals he won in the pentathlon and decathlon in the 1912 Olympics, thereafter being proclaimed the greatest athlete in the world. He was also a football star for the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, helping the team beat such notable gridiron institutions such as Harvard, Penn, and Army (West Point).

Three are really four phases to Thorpe's life. The first being his upbringing on an Indian reservation and mostly left to run free and find his own fun and games. He was a very active outdoorsman which is a partial explanation for this developing into a phenomenal athlete. While unconventional, constantly running, jumping, hunting, and playing games certainly kept him active as a youth.

The second phase was his stint at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Once his talents were shaped at Carlyle he became not only a world class athlete, but THE world class athlete.

The third phase was his time as a professional athlete.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
For anyone interested in the famous Olympic decathalon champion and for some, the greatest football player ever, who happened to be a native american , read this book! And for anyone interested in the early history of track & field, football, the "real" Pop Warner, baseball, the AAU/Avery Brundage/amateurism, the birth of professionalism, native american politics, racism and Hollywood- this book has it all. Kate Buford has done a superior job of definitive research supporting her bittersweet portrait of a national legend.
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Format: Hardcover
Kate Buford's "Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe" is an informative and entertaining read. Her years of exhaustive and intensive research show--virtually every page is a "learning experience." Of course, all the legendary aspects of Thorpe's remarkable life are explained in nuanced detail (football All-America, Olympic glory and disgrace, major league baseball player, and pro football pioneer,) but what separates this Jim Thorpe book from the others is her unique treatment of Thorpe's post-playing career--a subject woefully glossed over in previous biographies. I've never seen such a meticulous accounting (detailed, but far from dull) of his Native American activism and his Hollywood days, as well as his everyday life. Especially interesting was how East Mauch Chunk and Mauch Chunk merged to become the town of Jim Thorpe (Pennsylvania) without Thorpe ever having been there. Anyone the least bit interested in Thorpe, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, or Native American life would do well to purchase and read this all-encompassing work.

Jim Campbell - football historian
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