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ON THESE COURTS

A MIRACLE SEASON THAT CHANGED A CITY, A ONCE-FUTURE STAR, AND A TEAM FOREVER

A feel-good story that begs for a where-are-they-now follow-up in 10 years.

The story of former NBA star Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway’s return to the mean streets of his youth to lead a team of disadvantaged middle schoolers to basketball glory.

Even the schmaltziest made-for-TV sports movie would be hard-pressed to squeeze in all of the clichés packed into the tale of Hardaway’s homecoming to the rough-and-tumble Memphis neighborhood of Binghampton: the local boy done good who returns to help underprivileged youth at the request of a cancer-stricken friend; the emotionally scarred, delinquent boys who turn their lives around when the star athlete becomes the father figure they never had; the rival gangs who call a truce during the season and unite to make sure the team stays out of trouble. And yet, each of those elements rings true in CNN.com writer Drash’s debut. The author leverages shared geographical and basketball roots to chronicle Hardaway’s transformation from NBA All-Star (a career unfortunately derailed by a series of injuries) to middle school basketball coach in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the country. Hardaway originally took the job to help out the school’s coach, childhood friend Desmond Merriweather, when Merriweather was diagnosed with late-stage cancer, but stayed when he saw the opportunity to be a positive role model for an unruly group of boys who were growing up, as he had, with very little. The troubled but talented team quickly transformed into a state title contender, and the combined influence of Hardaway and Merriweather helped them maximize their potential both on the court and in the classroom. Despite the paint-by-numbers narrative arc, there are genuinely touching moments, and it’s always uplifting to see a wealthy superstar give more than just money to help his community.

A feel-good story that begs for a where-are-they-now follow-up in 10 years.

Pub Date: May 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1021-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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