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Hoop Roots: Basketball, Race, and Love by John Edgar Wideman




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Rhythmic Dribbling

John Edgar Wideman handles words with precision and delicacy, and dribbles them out carefully, always scoring with the right image by the end of a sentence. In his memoir, Hoop Roots: Basketball, Race, and Love, Wideman uses all his skills to present groups of impressions and images with stories and insights. Here’s an excerpt:

“The sentence I’m seeking wants to be what actually occurred between then and now, even though that wish dooms it to be elusive, daunting, and as fatal as the possibilities within any given moment. Moments can expand you or snuff you out, either/or and always a little of both hovering in time’s marrow, in the narrow passage from chair to bed, from fear to hoping, remembering, trying to convince myself my grandmother has always been alive, part of my life, here where I am and why could I worry it could be any other way.
I didn’t touch her the first day. Looked long and hard enough to see the sweaty roots of hair where they were pulled back from her temple to form a braid, to see her skin wasn’t one color but many, paleness dotted and speckled with darker bits of various hues, see her jaw twitch as if the invisible part of her face pushed into the pillow was tasting something, chewing or fussing.”

Most pages will have lines or sentences that cause a reader to pause, exhale, and read the line again to enjoy the meter, the image or the feeling. As the title suggests, the book is about basketball, race and love. It’s also about life, and reading it will be time spent living well.

Steve Hopkins, December 12, 2001


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