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

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  75 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
The first comprehensive biography of the legendary figure who defined excellence in American sports: Jim Thorpe, arguably the greatest all-around athlete the United States has ever seen.

With clarity and a fine 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 Carlis
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published October 26th 2010 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2010)
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Kate Buford
Dec 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I wrote the book, so I give it five stars.
LIBRARY JOURNAL: "This is the definitive biography of a legendary figure in American history, in and out of sports."
WASHINGTON POST - "Buford ... knows about mythic heroes and draws a complex portrait of Jim Thorpe: from his superhuman athletic talents to his all-too-human flaws."
KIRKUS REVIEWS - "An impeccably researched biography of one of the world's greatest all-around athletes, a symbol of racial injustice and untapped potential."
Aug 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, sports
A person of incredible athletic talent on the gridiron, track, and diamond who struggled so mightily with every other aspect of adult life. Such was the life of Jim Thorpe. Today, we still see athletes who can be so totally in command of themselves on the field of play and without the ability to handle life off of it.

Buford does a very thorough job of describing both the glory and the pathos. The intertwining of the condition of Native Americans in the first half of the 20th century adds to the
Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Buford takes an in-depth look at the life of Jim Thorpe. She wades admirably through the layers of myth and legend and gives us a portrait of a greatly gifted man who was victimized by others, but who also caused or worsened many of his problems through his own behavior. Buford also gives a detailed portrait of Native American life at the turn of the century and the government and society's attitudes toward Native Americans.
Nov 21, 2017 rated it liked it
I read this book because I wanted to learn about Jim Thorpe, someone I knew very little about. Mission accomplished. I now think that I know everything about every play that Thorpe made in any football game, baseball game, or track meet and any one line he had in any Hollywood movie he was in. Learning about the unexpected (to me) connection between Native American history and the history of collegiate football was interesting as was learning about the role of Native Americans in 1930s Hollywood ...more
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well researched history of Jim Thorpe. The book had some information that did not pertain to Jim, which made it lengthy at times. However, it was a great read. As a Native American, I idolize Jim Thorpe's determination, perseverance, and loyalty towards his ambitions, passions, especially towards his Native American community. A very talented man with a tragic ending. It heartbreaking.
Gary Null
This was truly an enjoyable book. I learned a lot about the legendary Jim Thorpe that I had never known before. He excelled not only in track & field and football, but other sports as well – baseball and basketball.

Being of mixed Indian (Sac and Potawatomi) and white heritage, Jim did have to overcome prejudice and discrimination, but his athletic prowess helped him to become one of America’s best-known and most-admired sports figures.

The author includes copious notes and source annotations
C Baker
Oct 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: football, sports
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 acculturati ...more
Josh Liller
Sep 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: football
This a pretty interesting biography of Jim Thorpe. Although his name is probably no longer familiar to the average American, he was arguably the greatest athlete of his day: famous for his 1912 Olympic gold medals (and their subsequent controversial revocation), his stellar college football career at Carlisle, and his involvement with the creation of the AFPA/NFL in 1920. Even those who know of Thorpe are probably not familiar with his baseball career, off-field antics, and troubled personal lif ...more
Dick Hamilton
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I wanted to read this book because one of my high school gym coaches played football against Jim Thorpe. He said it was like trying to tackle a phone pole. The author does an excellent job covering Jim Thorpe's athletic feats, many of which are well known, but then also devotes a large portion of the book to his life after sports. For many athletes, this part is often given no mention. Although the post-athletic career was often sad, I enjoyed the time and attention given to this aspect of Jim T ...more
Tom R.
Apr 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
When I was a kid I still remember hearing a lot about the legendary football/track/baseball athlete Jim Thorpe, but it seems like as time goes by you hear his name less and less. That's a shame, because in addition to being one of the greatest athletes in American history, he lived a fascinating life.
This book is never stronger than when talking about Thorpe's time at the Carlisle Indian School, where he played football. The school itself represents one of the most underappreciated underdog stor
Jul 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
This a great American story on so many levels. This gives the reader so many insights into what makes someone "American" and how poorly some Americans treat one another built on ignorance and prejudice. If you don't understand someone, if they don't conform to whatever "normal and right" is, then there must be something wrong with them. Maybe, like many people we can say one thing and do just the opposite.
Native Americans, have for the most part been horribly mistreated in a most unchristian-l
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Wonderful book fit for a champion. Modern day history has hidden a hardworking athlete like Jim Thorpe. He was one of the athletes, along with Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson who paved way for minorities to play in baseball, basketball and football. The pictures that Buford includes are captivating. And, shows a young man determined to overcome obstacles in his path. Jim Thorpe is not only an icon in Native American history, but an icon in cultural history in the United States. The one subject I ...more
Jun 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
NATIVE AMERICAN SON: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe. (2010). Kate Buford. ***.
A dense biography of this famous American Indian athlete who still inspires admiration among American sports fans. The author explores all the myths surrounding Thorpe, and provides the true facts regarding his achievements. I did have a problem with the author’s dedication to showing all of her research skills; there was very little filtration and subsequent organization of the facts. I found myself skimmi
Ben Denison
Jan 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. It was a hard read, and I say that not as a criticism, but it was packed with so much information.

When I started the book, I thought uh oh, too academic, but the author Buford really did a good job of weaving Thorpe's life into the history of the times and the native american experience.

It took me a long time to complete the book as I juggle 5-6 at a time, but it was well worth the time and I really learned a lot about the man and the struggle native americans and of t
Jaime Contreras
Jan 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, sports
Jim Thorpe has remained as a sports icon but intimate details of his life have been glossed over. This book lays out his troubled educational journey, his competitive spirit, his battle with the public persona, and his marriages. I walked away with an appreciation for this man with the spirit of a champion, the heart of a child and the bulk of a giant. This was a great read about a misunderstood American icon.
Seth Burchett
Nov 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I had to read it for class. It was a really good story. I didn't feel like it focused enough on Jim Thorpe. There was a lot about football and the Native Americans in general. While I felt this helpful the story, there were times I forgot I was reading about Jim. This was overall though and entertaining and informative read.
Nov 04, 2011 rated it liked it
I couldn't finish this book. It was just too heavy and overly detailed—the author's research was, in every sense, exhaustive. Also, Thorpe's story is depressing. Through faults of his own and others, his life spiraled downward. I realized that I wasn't enjoying myself and gave up.
Nov 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Jim Thorpe's a fascinating character. So gifted, and so profligate. You read this wonderful biography and you feel inspired and frustrated at the same time. There's so much more to his story than I knew. Really a uniquely American tragedy.
Oct 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Read this if only to learn about the crazy story of his burial. Too crazy to be fiction.
Mar 10, 2012 is currently reading it
I am about 1/4 way thru this book. Interesting book about the early life of a man described by many as the greatest athlete ever.
Frank Ogden
Aug 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a well-researched biography of Jim Thorpe, the first decathlon athlete. Thorough with many photos, very thorough family history.
rated it it was ok
Aug 06, 2012
Bud Campana
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Mar 31, 2014
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Oct 24, 2013
Nicholas Sweedo
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Jan 12, 2016
David Goode
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Aug 23, 2016
Stephanie Robertson
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Jun 21, 2012
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Nov 20, 2010
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Jul 05, 2014
rated it it was ok
May 16, 2012
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I was born and grew up in California, and later went to school at Trinity College, Dublin, and Columbia. After a first career as a law librarian on Wall Street, I became a writer. BURT LANCASTER: AN AMERICAN LIFE (Knopf, 2000) was my first book, followed by NATIVE AMERICAN SON: THE LIFE AND SPORTING LEGEND OF JIM THORPE (Knopf, 2010). I live in Virginia and New York.

Writing narrative nonfiction is
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