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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books; Reprint edition (March 1 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803240899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803240896
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.4 x 22.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 703 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,766,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“This is the definitive biography of a legendary figure in American history, in and out of sports. . . . Essential.”—Library Journal
(Library Journal)

“A full account of the legend and tragedy of Native American sportsman Jim Thorpe . . . Buford’s account brims with detail, all of it relevant to the telling.”—Booklist

“Impeccably researched. . . . This retrospective is not the first to tackle the complex life of Jim Thorpe, but it’s the most comprehensive. . . . [It] captures Thorpe’s breathtaking highs and heartrending lows.”—Kirkus

“A professional biography 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
(American Heritage)

“[Buford] lays a firm, clear historical groundwork for the reservation life and Indian world in which Thorpe grew up in Oklahoma. . . . [It] brims with life in its depiction of Hollywood during the 1930s and ’40s. . . . Through Thorpe’s struggles and striving, Buford recreates this period of Los Angeles history in all its glorious strangeness.”—New York Times (Editors’ Choice)
(New York Times)

“[Buford] knows about mythic heroes and draws a complex portrait of Jim Thorpe: from his superhuman athletic talents to his all-too-human flaws.”—Washington Post
(Washington Post)

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.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars 21 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Most researched book to date, not a page turner though Feb. 13 2011
By J. Warner - Published on
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.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Miss This Dec 4 2010
By Marilyn Johnson - Published on
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.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jim Thorpe- an outstanding bio of a 20th century superstar Dec 3 2010
By LL Flippin - Published on
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.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe" Dec 8 2010
By Jim Campbell - football historian - Published on
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
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can a biography be a page turner? Dec 11 2010
By pinheddlee - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I must emphatically state, "You bet it's a page turner."
Jim Thorpe has been so much more than just an amazing athlete; his folk hero status begged for someone to tell his story in more than just stats and old pictures. And Kate Buford does not disappoint. Well worth the read for her high level of research into the details of the politics and culture of the times that had such an affect on his life. Highly recommended and read her Burt Lancaster bio too, another interesting take on an interesting life.