Most Overlooked Books of The Summer, Part Two
Last week I brought you Part One of the Summer's Most Overlooked Books according to Kirkus Reviews. Today, I bring your Part Two of this list.
JIM BROWN: LAST MAN STANDING
by Dave Zirin
Jim Brown is recognized as perhaps the greatest football player to ever live. But his phenomenal nine-year career with the Cleveland Browns is only part of his remarkable story, the opening salvo to a much more sprawling epic. Brown parlayed his athletic fame into stardom in Hollywood, where it was thought that he could become "the black John Wayne." He was an outspoken Black Power icon in the 1960s, and he formed Black Economic Unions to challenge racism in the business world. For this and for his decades of work as a truce negotiator with street gangs, Brown--along with such figures as Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, and Billie Jean King--is revered as a socially conscious athlete.
On the most hypermasculine cultural canvases of the United States--NFL football, the Black Power movement, Hollywood's blaxploitation films, gang intervention both inside and outside prison walls--Jim Brown has made his mark. Yet in the landscape of the most toxic expression of "what makes a man"--numerous accusations of violence against women--he has left a jagged mark as well.
Dave Zirin's book redefines an American icon, and not always in a flattering light. At eighty-one years old, Brown continues to speak out and look for fights. His recent public support of Donald Trump and criticism of Colin Kaepernick are just the latest examples of someone who seems restless if he is not in conflict. Jim Brown is a raw and thrilling account of Brown's remarkable life and a must-read for sports fans and students of the black freedom struggle.
THE MERE WIFE
by Maria Dahvana Headley
From the perspective of those who live in Herot Hall, the suburb is a paradise. Picket fences divide buildings—high and gabled—and the community is entirely self-sustaining. Each house has its own fireplace, each fireplace is fitted with a container of lighter fluid, and outside—in lawns and on playgrounds—wildflowers seed themselves in neat rows. But for those who live surreptitiously along Herot Hall’s periphery, the subdivision is a fortress guarded by an intense network of gates, surveillance cameras, and motion-activated lights.
For Willa, the wife of Roger Herot (heir of Herot Hall), life moves at a charmingly slow pace. She flits between mommy groups, playdates, cocktail hour, and dinner parties, always with her son, Dylan, in tow. Meanwhile, in a cave in the mountains just beyond the limits of Herot Hall lives Gren, short for Grendel, as well as his mother, Dana, a former soldier who gave birth as if by chance. Dana didn’t want Gren, didn’t plan Gren, and doesn’t know how she got Gren, but when she returned from war, there he was. When Gren, unaware of the borders erected to keep him at bay, ventures into Herot Hall and runs off with Dylan, Dana’s and Willa’s worlds collide.
TROPIC OF FOOTBALL: THE LONG AND PERILOUS JOURNEY OF SAMOANS TO THE NFL
by Rob Ruck
Football is at a crossroads, its future imperiled by the very physicality that drives its popularity. Its grass roots—high school and youth travel program—are withering. But players from the small South Pacific American territory of Samoa are bucking that trend, quietly becoming the most disproportionately overrepresented culture in the sport.
Jesse Sapolu, Junior Seau, Troy Polamalu, and Marcus Mariota are among the star players to emerge from the Samoan islands, and more of their brethren suit up every season. The very thing that makes them so good at football—their extraordinary internalization of discipline and warrior self-image—makes them especially vulnerable to its pitfalls, including concussions and brain injuries.
Award-winning sports historian Rob Ruck travels to the South Seas to unravel American Samoa’s complex ties with the United States. He finds an island blighted by obesity, where boys train on fields blistered with volcanic pebbles wearing helmets that should have been discarded long ago, incurring far more neurological damage than their stateside counterparts and haunted by Junior Seau, who committed suicide after a vaunted twenty-year NFL career, unable to live with the demons that resulted from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Tropic of Football is a gripping, bittersweet history of what may be football’s last frontier
by David Chariandy
One sweltering summer in the Park, a housing complex outside of Toronto, Michael and Francis are coming of age and learning to stomach the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront them as young men of black and brown ancestry. While their Trinidadian single mother works double, sometimes triple shifts so her boys might fulfill the elusive promise of their adopted home, Francis helps the days pass by inventing games and challenges, bringing Michael to his crew's barbershop hangout, and leading escapes into the cool air of the Rouge Valley, a scar of green wilderness where they are free to imagine better lives for themselves.
Propelled by the beats and styles of hip hop, Francis dreams of a future in music. Michael's dreams are of Aisha, the smartest girl in their high school whose own eyes are firmly set on a life elsewhere. But the bright hopes of all three are violently, irrevocably thwarted by a tragic shooting, and the police crackdown and suffocating suspicion that follow.
Honest and insightful in its portrayal of kinship, community, and lives cut short, David Chariandy's Brother is an emotional tour de force that marks the arrival of a stunning new literary voice.
CRUX: A CROSS-BORDER MEMOIR
by Jean Guerrero
Throughout Jean Guerrero’s childhood, her father, Marco Antonio, was an erratic and elusive presence. A self-taught genius at fixing, creating, and conjuring things—and capable of transforming himself into a shaman, dreamcaster, or animal whisperer in his enchanted daughter’s eyes—he gradually began to lose himself in his peculiar obsessions, careening wildly between reality and hallucination. In time, he fled his family and responsibilities—to Asia, Europe, and eventually back to Mexico. He succumbed to drug- and alcohol-fueled manias, while suffering the effects of what he said were CIA mind-control experiments. As soon as she was old enough, Jean set out after him. Now a journalist, she used the tools of her trade, hoping to find answers to the questions he left behind.
In this lyrical, haunting memoir, Jean Guerrero tries to locate the border between truth and fantasy as she searches for explanations for her father’s behavior. Refusing to accept an alleged schizophrenia diagnosis at face value, she takes Marco Antonio’s dark paranoia seriously and investigates all his wildest claims. She crisscrosses the Mexican-American border to unearth the stories of cousins and grandparents and discovers a chain of fabulists and mystics in her lineage, going back to her great-great-grandmother, a clairvoyant curandera who was paid to summon spirits from the afterlife. As she delves deeper and deeper into her family’s shadowy past, Jean begins mirroring her father’s self-destructive behavior. She risks death on her adventures, imperiling everything in her journey to redeem her father from the underworld of his delusions.
In the tradition of engrossing family memoirs like The Liar’s Club and The Glass Castle, Crux is both a riveting adventure story and a profoundly original exploration of the human psyche, the mysteries of our most intimate relationships—and ourselves.
How is your summer reading going? Have you read any of these books? Tell me about it in the comments below :)