John Edgar Wideman
- Title: Hoop Roots: Basketball, Race, and Love
- Author: John Edgar Wideman
- ISBN: 9780395857311
- Page: 390
- Format: Hardcover
Hoop Roots is John Edgar Wideman s memoir of discovering the game that has been his singular passion for nearly fifty years It is equally, inevitably, the story of the roots of black basketball in America a story inextricable from race, culture, love, and home As a boy, Wideman lived in his grandparents worn but welcoming home in the ghettoized Homewood section of PitHoop Roots is John Edgar Wideman s memoir of discovering the game that has been his singular passion for nearly fifty years It is equally, inevitably, the story of the roots of black basketball in America a story inextricable from race, culture, love, and home As a boy, Wideman lived in his grandparents worn but welcoming home in the ghettoized Homewood section of Pittsburgh It was a world presided over by women, forever coddling, scolding, protective One day John slipped away from their watchful gaze and escaped to a place where white factory workers shot hoops on their breaks Then someone handed him a ball That thrilling first shot was a turning point Later he sneaked from his dying grandmother s bedside to the courts where other black boys gathered Here he really learned the game the African American game, whose style and power would change him and our culture With Du Bois s The Souls of Black Folk as his model, Wideman combines memoir with history, folklore, and commentary to create a magical evocation of his unique slice of American experience He imagines the Harlem Globetrotters in 1927, on their way to the Illinois town where the only black resident will be lynched A playground game in Greenwich Village conjures Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and the sources of black minstrelsy African American language, culture, music, and sport brilliantly interweave in a lyrical narrative that glides from nostalgic to outraged, from scholarly to streetwise, from defiant to celebratory Like his previous memoirs, Wideman s Hoop Roots is both deeply personal and fiercely resonant.
Recent Comments "Hoop Roots: Basketball, Race, and Love"
One of the surprises of my life in the last few years is falling back in love with sports. I thought I had given them up, filed them away as philistine nonsense, juvenile and macho posturing, another example of the bread and circuses the gatekeepers of our society toss out to the enthralled masses. I never really gave up on baseball, to be truthful. The love went too deep, back to my earliest memories, hours and hours spent playing pick up games, over the line, or just solitarily throwing a ball [...]
At the beginning of the memoir, John Edgar Wideman is finally succumbing to the idea that his body is too worn out to play basketball anymore. Instead of playing, has written a series of memoir-essays on playground basketball, especially his childhood self playing in Homewood, a black, lower class neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Wideman's prose is observant, lush, and self-aware, and his loving attention to the details of playground basketball launches into deeply insightful essays on black culture, [...]
Wideman sees the game of pickup basketball as a metaphor for the challenges, successes and failures of life, as an escape from the poverty and oppression of poor, black neighborhoods, and as a kind of meditative practice of finding the flow, living in the moment. "If urban blight indeed a movable famine, playground ball the city's movable feast. Thesis and antithesis. Blight a sign of material decay, ball a sign of spiritual health rising from the rubble. One embodying apartheid, denial, and exc [...]
Whatever John Wideman writes is pure poetry. I find myself smiling about how his words resonate in my mind without my even realizing it. Just that it is a total joy to read him. I first heard of him when his book Brothers and Keepers had come out to a lot of critical acclaim, but I have kept up with him and enjoy ALL his writing always. Right now I'm reading "hoop roots" (his title has no upper case)and I have to say I love every page. He can convince me of anything, I'm happy to say.
Memoir. Meditation on race. On loss. On love. A feint. A pump fake. A crossover dribble. But, unfortunately, (mostly) not a book about playground basketball. Except in a few wondrous passages, fails to capture or convey the rapture, passion and meaning of playing the greatest game every played.
As a former school yard basketball player and a long time fan of John Wideman (the player and writer) this is a must read for me. Race and sports and their relationship to each other are well captured in Wideman's meticulous prose.
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