Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn

Larry Colton, Author Warner Books $24.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-446-52683-8
Colton arrived in Crow, Mont., ready to write a book about a season of boy's high school basketball in the Crow Indian community. But when he saw graceful Sharon Laforge shooting hoops, he was drawn to her athleticism and fascinated by the dichotomy between her on-court focus and her off-court distractedness. To get closer to Laforge, Colton tracks her senior year on the Lady Bulldogs, from the first practice through tournament play. He rides the team bus, assists at practice, wins a spot as an ""honorary seventeen-year-old girl,"" and is eventually adopted into the tribe by Laforge's family. In Laforge, Colton finds a young woman in distress; as she attempts to fulfill her own and her family's hopes, she struggles with the uglier legacies of her community: alcoholism, domestic abuse, abandonment, shortsighted tribal politics, fierce racism and misogyny. In search of a happy ending, Colton follows as Laforge sticks it out with her abusive boyfriend, raises two boys and struggles toward her high school and college degrees. To his credit, Colton effectively employs his position as an outsider to explore the group's culture, and his long-term perspective allows him to convey the drive Laforge needs to survive. However, by centering his focus on one person, he misses opportunities to reflect on larger questions. (In particular, he seems unaware of Ian Frazier's writing about Sharon Big Crow, a basketball star and hopeful who juggled similar pressures on a Lakota reservation in South Dakota.) Nonetheless, Colton's love of basketball and caring insights deliver a sad but ultimately hopeful sort of Hoop Dreams, complete with the struggle for maturity, a community's collective dream and the athletic grace that can momentarily hold the world at bay. Author tour. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Genre: Nonfiction
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