A Great Read..SHADOW OF A NATION


This book is amazing..It was not a book I picked up on my own but was added to my book collection after required reading at JRN school. It is an expansive collection of short (or not-so-short) stories by a gifted and talented sports writer, Gary Smith. Here is my personal review of two of the stories::

SHADOW OF A NATION: The circle was the symbol of never-ending life to the Crows-they saw it revealed in the shape and movement of the sun and moon, in the path of the eagle….but Jonathan Takes Enemy life felt cursed to follow this wretched circle…that would take him up…and over…and down…

Gary Smith carefully weaves a story that transcends any old blaze sports story and examines the threads that tie modern-day reservation Indians to ritualistic basketball. But as sure as the sun rises and sets each day, basketball could be likened to poison as talented boys from the Crow reservation played themselves to death.

I personally love Gary Smith’s style of writing-as depressing as his story lines may sometimes be. I’ve read commentary from classmates that rebuke Smith for assuming the thoughts of his protagonists. But I think this approach is an illustration of writing at its best. That you can know your subject so well that you can accurately guess their very thoughts. When Smith penned that no white people could ever understand this, that it was ok for an Indian to clench his teeth and compete as part of a team, but to remove yourself from your family to study was damning, didn’t he prove it? Didn’t Takes Enemy prove it with his life? If readers praise Smith for his amazingly accuring metaphors and sweeping imagery, why not his nerve? It was likely this that allowed him to construct his metaphors.

As the last Smith story that I was required to read, I paid attention to things I normally dismiss; and I wondered how? How did Smith this close to his subjects? So close to read their thoughts? It sets a high precedent for aspiring writers who wish to tell true stories in a way that reads as a fiction. “Is this really true?” I’ve asked myself numerous times. My doubt has even driven me to google. But, as story after story checked out, I realize that I want to adapt this nerve, break the circle of monotony and write of the world with new eyes.

SOMEONE TO LEAN ON: ‘Freaks,’ some would say or maybe even ‘retard.’ These words (and taunting behavior that usually follow the slurs) were coined in society’s efforts to differentiate those with defects, impediments and afflictions from “normal people.” But disparaging remarks like this never occur in the story of James Robert Kennedy, a black boy with a genetic mental disability that also impedes his speech and penmanship. Rather, Kennedy, or Radio as he is affectionately called, is adopted by the local high school, T.L. Hanna’s football team.

Radio’s position on the team remained more constant than the players who came and graduated. One year of eleventh grade led to thirty more as Coach Harold Jones, responsible for fostering the players, essentially nurtured Radio. Radio, who still attends school at T.L. Hanna, became an element of the team, school and eventually, the town. His erratic role-playing of each type of individual that could be in the stadium before each game became endearing. His cheer seemed to lead them to their wins. His fears: now theirs.
How did Radio get this chance that many in this world can never imagine? Maybe it was because Coach Jones has always harbored a fierce compassion for the voiceless and needy. Or perhaps, as the story implies, high school sports is an empathetic entity that can accommodate those whom the world shuns.

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