THE KIDS GOT IT RIGHT

HOW THE TEXAS ALL-STARS KICKED DOWN RACIAL WALLS

A passionate, well-reported history of the role Texas football played in America’s racial integration.

Consummate sports chronicler Dent (Courage Behind the Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story, 2012, etc.) examines a transformative football event in Texas that blurred racial boundaries.

Back when sports “lacked the glitz, the megamillions, and the idolization,” one popular all-star game stole the spotlight from all other arenas: the Big 33 Football Classic. Pitting two teams of 33 high school football all-star players against each other, it was the ultimate rivalry competition. Dent begins his coverage of two pivotal incarnations of the event in 1964, as Texas bowed to Pennsylvania in a crushing 12-6 loss. The defeat enraged Texas coach Bobby Layne, a former superstar quarterback saddled with a drinking habit and relentless hubris. With the able assistance of longtime friend and former teammate Doak Walker and the approval of then-mayor John Connally, the Texas all-star team enlisted three exceptionally talented but largely ignored black players who had yet to be integrated into the Texas games: James Harris, George Dunford and Jerry “the Jet” LeVias, a beefy yet swift scholarship athlete who fought through a polio-riddled childhood to emerge a gifted athlete with the NFL. LeVias was befriended by talented white high school quarterback Bill Bradley, his “blue-eyed soul brother,” who rejected segregationist norms of the time to become LeVias’ roommate and best friend. The sold-out, media-frenzied Big 33 game in 1965 found Texas taking victorious strides in both football and racial equality. Dent includes generous sections of lively game play, personal profiles and interesting postscripts from Coach Layne, Walker, Bradley, LeVias and respected black Texas high school coach Clifton Ozen.

A passionate, well-reported history of the role Texas football played in America’s racial integration.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-00785-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

THE ASSIST

HOOPS, HOPE, AND THE GAME OF THEIR LIVES

A noble debut with its heart in the right place, but lacking the substance of its spiritual cousin, Hoop Dreams.

Friday Night Lights meets Boyz n the Hood on the mean streets of Boston.

Obsessive basketball coach Jack O’Brien was a beloved mainstay at Charlestown High School, leading its team to multiple championships. What made his accomplishments so impressive was the fact that his team was comprised of young men from the projects who were bussed into school. During the 2004-05 season documented here, Charlestown was led by Jason “Hood” White, a cornrowed guard who, when he was three, was run over and almost killed by a crackhead on her way to get a fix. As important as it was for O’Brien to take another title, it was just as vital that his players get into college or, at the very least, survive the streets. If that meant helping Hood navigate his way through the Massachusetts court system, so be it. Award-winning Boston Globe Magazine staff writer Swidey comes from a hard-news background, which proves a double-edged sword in executing this hoops-in-the-hood book. His straight journalistic chops infuse the legal proceedings and the player profiles with a higher-than-expected level of gravitas, but his depictions of the games are less than gripping. Since basketball was the primary raison d’être for O’Brien and his brood, the lack of fire in the sports reporting diminishes its significance. (Swidey could take some lessons in suspense from Jack McCallum’s Seven Seconds or Less, 2006.) Perhaps the author seeks to emphasize that basketball should enhance people’s lives, not overwhelm them—a fair sentiment, but it doesn’t make for the kind of book that will resonate beyond a niche audience.

A noble debut with its heart in the right place, but lacking the substance of its spiritual cousin, Hoop Dreams.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-58648-469-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2007

THE WEIGHT OF A MUSTARD SEED

AN IRAQI GENERAL’S MORAL JOURNEY DURING THE TIME OF SADDAM

A tenacious attempt to answer the question, “How do ordinary little human cogs make up a torture machine?”

Through the grim travails of one of Saddam Hussein’s top generals, journalist Steavenson (Stories I Stole, 2003) examines the dictator’s edifice of totalitarianism and moral corruption.

Taking her title from a verse of the Koran promising to mete out justice even to the “weight of a mustard seed,” the author weaves a fascinating account of how good men went terribly wrong. Steavenson worked as a journalist in Baghdad in 2003–04 and continued her interviews of exiled Iraqis in London and elsewhere, probing deeply into the stories of former Baath Party officials. Through a high-level Iraqi doctor who had served in the medical corps during the course of four Iraqi wars, the author was put in touch with the surviving family of Kamel Sachet, a commander of the special forces and general in charge of the army in Kuwait City during the Gulf War. The general was shot as a traitor by order of the Iraqi president in 1998. Born to an illiterate family in 1947, Sachet became a policeman and then joined the special forces, rising through the ranks to major. He distinguished himself during the Iran-Iraq war, gaining Hussein’s trust but also his occasional ire, which led to prison and torture. Sachet led the assault into Kuwait, but with the retreat and subsequent scourge by the United States, he became disillusioned with the violence and bloodshed and retired as a devout Muslim. Steavenson ably explores his and others’ obedience in fulfilling the dictator’s grisly demands, echoing works by Hannah Arendt, Primo Levi and Stanley Milgram.

A tenacious attempt to answer the question, “How do ordinary little human cogs make up a torture machine?”

Pub Date: March 17, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-172178-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Collins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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