Book Review: ‘Canyon Dreams: A Basketball Season on the Navajo Nation’ by Michael Powell

What a wonderful and insightful book by Michael Powell who spent a lot of time in the Navajo Nation and documented not just a basketball season, but the players, coaches, family members and the problems on the Nation.

Following the fortunes of one team, the Chinle Wildcats, Powell is able to show all of the issues that surround life on “the Rez”, and documents problems that envelope the entire team and nation. From fractured families to horrific living conditions, lack of running water and electricity, alcoholism, lack of jobs, and an amazing love of basketball we see all the good and bad of this area. We are introduced to the team members and their families, families who many times will follow the team on 10-hour round trips to ballgames. Powell makes friends with almost everyone and details all the difficulties these young men face at home, at school, and on the court as they have to regularly play bigger and “whiter” teams. But the team, at times, are their own worst enemy as they bristle at the coach, get upset when he gives negative comments, and incurs the ire of not just the player, but his family and fans if they feel he is playing favorites (even though those players are the best on the team). Things get better for the team by midseason and the players finally come to realize that maybe, just maybe, the coach knows what he is talking about.

The TV rights to the book were purchased by Netflix and will be made into a fictionalized series, one that I can only hope will be as good as this very special book!

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