Thursday, July 29, 2010
Book Review: Counting Coup
Recently, I sent a note to Larry Colton who had a very brief career with the Phillies.
Larry sent me back a very nice and honest note. He also sent a small promo flyer for the book he wrote several years ago called "Counting Coup."
I have a bit of a personal policy of trying to read any book recommended to me, especially if there is some sort of baseball connection. Anytime I send a note to a baseball player and they kindly respond, and mention that they have contributed to a book, I try to track it down.
In the note Larry sent me, I could tell that he was a very socially minded person, as he mentioned baseball unions and politics. His awareness of social issues shows very clearly in this book.
So, I found a copy of the big, but easy to read "Counting Coup".
Colton starts out talking about how he travels to an Indian Reservation to spend some time in the area, and to write about the high school boys basketball team. Quickly, he notices a player on the girl's team who stands out. Larry's plan of writing a book about the boys team is scratched. The focus becomes the girls team and specifically Sharon.
Larry Colton has a bit of an interesting writing style. He very openly interacts with the people in the book, and he writes about it. In many ways, he becomes a part of the story.
Larry lives in the community for 15 months, following the team to games, and even going to family get-togethers and sweat lodges with locals.
He interviews local politicians, family members, and others in the community. The author boldly gives very honest quotes from those in the community.
There is some tension between the whites and the members of the Tribes. Since Larry gives such honest quotes, some of the people in the book do come off as racist. This does happen on all sides.
Also, there are the common issues that occur on a reservation. Larry acknowledges that he sees drinking as a problem in the area. Higher education is another problem. the whites seem to have an easier time getting access to an education.
Colton hasn't written just another book about an oppressed people though. By the end of the book, he has not offered an idealistic solution to racial problem.
In fact, the book is a little disappointing, as there is no fairy tale happy ending. The book ends on a bit of a down note.
With that disappointment, however, you do appreciate Colton's honesty. In the real world, the stories often do not end with everyone happy, and everything perfect in the end. If the author forced such an ending to this story, he would not be honest. These are real people in a real community.
This is one of the more fascinating books I have read in some time. You feel some real attachment to the people in the area. You want to see things work out for them, especially Sharon.
The book's realness, and the author talking so openly to the reader makes for a good read. His writing style reminds you of a friend telling you a story. You aren't watching it as an outsider, you are there with him, and you develop a real interest and appreciation for these real people.