Book Review: Counting Coup by Larry Colton

IMG_3891Synopsis: A non-fiction account set on a Crow reservation in Montana, this tells the story of high school student Sharon LaForge, a powerful basketball player and her and the Lady Bulldog’s quest to be state champions.

Review: While an informative look at life on a Crow reservation in Montana, Counting Coup had too much basketball in it and wasn’t for me.

This book was a book club selection for me, and I can definitely say that I would not have ever picked this up in a bookstore to read. I enjoy reading nonfiction, so it’s not for that reason, the reason I would never willingly choose to read this book is because it is about basketball. I have a very long history with basketball. I started playing at a very young age, and I went to a small school where basketball was everything. Even though that was a long time ago, I’ve gone from loving the sport to absolutely hating it, and thanks to the magnetic Golden State Warriors, I’m back to somewhat enjoying it again. But even though I may watch the occasional Warriors game and every once in awhile long to shoot some hoops, I would never willingly choose to read a book about basketball. So, this one was for my book club, and I’m only rambling here so you understand where I’m coming from when I say that this book was definitely not for me.

Set on a Crow reservation near the Little Big Horn River in Montana, Sharon LaForge is a star. She is Crow, and plays basketball for Hardin High, which has a mixture of Native Americans and whites attending. Race is a big topic in this book, and it was interesting to read about. Larry Colton (the author) goes to great lengths to interview both Native Americans and whites for this book. Also interesting is the cycle of alcoholism and violence that is so prevalent in the area.

You get information about Crow culture, and information about the Battle of Little Big Horn, and I wanted more of this in the book rather than recaps of basketball games (seriously, I don’t know how anyone who doesn’t like basketball could like this book because there is so much of it!!). The basketball sections bored me and reminded me of everything I dislike about the game (back-biting, drama, coaches favorites, etc). I did like reading about the different characters, even if I didn’t really connect with them. I especially was interested by Sharon, Danetta (Sharon’s grandmother), and Coach Mac – who was really making some terrible coaching decisions in my opinion. This book also really makes me want to travel to Montana. It’s hard to judge the characters because this book is nonfiction, and many characters make bad decisions, and that was extremely frustrating to read. All you can do is shake your head and hope things will turn out differently.

Even though this book is dry in places, and I have used the “B word” (boring) in conversation about it, I do think this will be a good discussion book because it touches on topics that inspire conversation: treatment of Native Americans, racism, alcoholism, violence, poverty, and education. And if you enjoy reading sports books, especially books about basketball, I think you might really like this book. But, alas, it brought back everything I dislike about the sport of basketball, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I probably should have.

Bottom Line: Informative about Crow culture, but the sections about basketball were terribly uninteresting, although that may be my personal history interfering. This book was not for me.

You Might Like to Read:

  • The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown: A nonfiction account of the University of Washington’s Crew Team and their quest at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Chock full of facts about the Olympics, Hitler, and Depression-era America, this is a fascinating tale that really made me appreciate the sport of crew.



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