2021 Reading List
I Came As A Shadow: An Autobiography by John Thompson
John Thompson was never just a basketball coach and I Came As A Shadow is categorically not just a basketball autobiography.
After three decades at the center of race and sports in America, the first Black head coach to win an NCAA championship makes the private public at last. Chockful of stories and moving beyond mere stats (and what stats! three Final Fours, four times national coach of the year, seven Big East championships, 97 percent graduation rate), Thompson’s book drives us through his childhood under Jim Crow segregation to our current moment of racial reckoning. We experience riding shotgun with Celtics icon Red Auerbach, and coaching NBA Hall of Famers like Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson. How did he inspire the phrase “Hoya Paranoia”? You’ll see. And thawing his historically glacial stare, Thompson brings us into his negotiation with a DC drug kingpin in his players’ orbit in the 1980s, as well as behind the scenes of his years on the Nike board.
Thompson’s mother was a teacher who couldn’t teach because she was Black. His father could not read or write, so the only way he could identify different cements at the factory where he worked was to taste them. Their son grew up to be a man with his own life-sized statue in a building that bears his family’s name on a campus once kept afloat by the selling of 272 enslaved people. This is a great American story, and John Thompson’s experience sheds light on many of the issues roiling our nation. In these pages–a last gift from “Coach”–he proves himself to be the elder statesman whose final words college basketball and the country need to hear.
I Came As A Shadow is not a swan song, but a bullhorn blast from one of America’s most prominent sons. Huddle up.
Discussion Date: May 7, 2021
Luster by Raven Leilani
A FAVORITE BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New Yorker, Barack Obama
No one wants what no one wants.
And how do we even know what we want? How do we know we’re ready to take it?
Edie is stumbling her way through her twenties —sharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She is also haltingly, fitfully giving heat and air to the art that simmers inside her. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriage —with rules.
As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren’t hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and invited into Eric’s home–though not by Eric. She becomes a hesitant ally to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie may be the only Black woman young Akila knows.
Irresistibly unruly and strikingly beautiful, razor-sharp and slyly comic, sexually charged and utterly absorbing, Raven Leilani’s Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make sense of her life–her hunger, her anger–in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent, and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.
Discussion Date: June 4, 2021
Discussion Date: July 2, 2021
Discussion Date: August 6, 2021
Discussion Date: September 3, 2021
Discussion Date: October 1, 2021
Discussion Date: November 5, 2021
Discussion Date: December 3, 2021