There was a time when "counting coup" meant literally touching one's enemy in battle and living to talk about it. Still part of the Native American tradition, today the phrase means playing winning hoops and dominating one's opponents. Capturing the divisive racism between whites and Native Americans and the hardscrabble existence of a small rural town, COUNTING COUP tells the story of the girls' varsity basketball team at Hardin High School in Crow, Montana. The team--comprised of both Crow Indian and white girls--is led by Sharon Laforge, a moody, undisciplined yet talented Native American girl who's hoping to be the first female player from her high school to earn a basketball scholarship to college. While following Laforge and the Hardin High School girls' basketball team for an entire season, Colton shows how the players deal with success, failure, friendship, rivalries, and racism.
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.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|