Review of Oklahoma’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals

Writer’s Digest just sent me a review of Oklahoma’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals that included something interesting. Before we get to that, you can read the short review in its entirety:

I knew Jim Thorpe would be in this book, and he is; but I didn’t know how many honors he had earned. Didn’t the Olympic Committee restore his medals, also? Well, besides Thorpe and his athletic prowess, this fine little book offers stories about a number of other fine students, All-Americans and later coaches. The U. S. tendency to treat Native Americans like animals means that their biographies reflect the glory of sports—and the sorrow of poverty and bigotry. If those students had cried all the tears they earned, Oklahoma would be a swamp. I wish the author had had time to write a book about each of the men.

I take the comments that “this fine little book” and the wish that I had “time to write a book about each of the men” as compliments. However, I feel that I should address some of what was said in the review lest the reader be misled. Of course the reviewer is correct in stating that I don’t have time to write book-length biographies for all these men. But time isn’t the reason I didn’t and don’t expect to be able to do that. Availability of information is the determining factor. The men about whom I write typically left few papers behind and none wrote memoirs. Occasionally, I locate one of their children but most of them are now deceased. Grandchildren are often interested in their grandfathers’ lives but most have little information about them. It is wonderful when they do.

These men, like most Americans of all races, generally worked at their jobs, paid their taxes, supported their families, survived the depression as best they could and sent sons off to fight in WWII. After being famous in their youths, they lived quiet, productive lives typical of their generation. Unfortunately, that usually doesn’t create enough material for a book.

A grandchild of one such man wrote me recently to inform me that she had read the chapter about her grandfather and told me that she was amazed at the amount of material I had found about him. Granted, his name found its way into his local newspapers much more than most but he left far too little information behind for a book.

Some of the reviewer’s other statements deserve comment and will be addressed next time.

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