While presenting a memoir of discovering basketball, novelist Wideman (U. of Massachusetts-Amherst) reveals much about the origins of black basketball in the US.
Annotation © Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
Basketball originally propelled novelist Wideman away from the Pittsburgh that later inspired his wonderful Homewood novels, such as Sent for You Yesterday. In more recent novels, Philadelphia Fire and Two Cities, Wideman's narratives have often detoured back to the ball court. Hoop Roots is more openly about the author's lifelong relationship to the game, but it has its share of breakaways, too, into black, white, music, love, marriage, seduction, and divorce as the author takes stock of changes in himself and his boyhood world. Part middle-aged memoir, part blacktop coming-of-age story, the book is Wideman's grudging acknowledgment that, still dabbling in pick-up ball at 59, he is laboring in an unforgiving game of youth. Wideman ably contrasts his early tutelage on the all-male ball court with his boyhood in a matriarchal household. But despite its impressionistic historical sweeps, this book's attempts at a cultural history of the sport are unsatisfying (especially Wideman's crankily light chapter on the jump shot). Nor does it dwell as long as it might on the national basketball success of the author's daughter Jamila. Basketball is a standard (along with writing) against which Wideman has long measured himself, and this uneven but original work is his "way of holding on." For dedicated Wideman fans and large sports collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/01.] Nathan Ward, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.