Days of Grace: A Memoir

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Overview

A remarkable and inspiring memoir by a remarkable and inspiring human being: Arthur Ashe, embodiment of courage and grace in every aspect of his life, from his triumphs as a great tennis champion and his determined social activism to his ordeal in the face of death, a casualty of AIDS. As he brings us into his childhood in Richmond, Virginia, where he was born in 1943, where his mother died when he was six, and where he was raised by a loving but demanding father who set before his son the goals of self-reliance,...
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Days of Grace

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Overview

A remarkable and inspiring memoir by a remarkable and inspiring human being: Arthur Ashe, embodiment of courage and grace in every aspect of his life, from his triumphs as a great tennis champion and his determined social activism to his ordeal in the face of death, a casualty of AIDS. As he brings us into his childhood in Richmond, Virginia, where he was born in 1943, where his mother died when he was six, and where he was raised by a loving but demanding father who set before his son the goals of self-reliance, discipline, and responsibility. He recalls his exit from the then segregated South and his entry into the world of tennis: a black intruder in an all-white enclave, experiencing from the start every variety of rude or "polite" exclusion and yet becoming, despite it, one of his generation's great players. He takes us inside the tennis world of his championship years and his captaincy of the Davis Cup team. He describes the full emotional shock of the discovery in 1988, in the aftermath of a brain operation, of his infection with AIDs - an infection that was traced back to a transfusion after a heart bypass operation in 1983. He tells what took place when he confided his condition to his wife and to a few close friends and colleagues. And he fully recounts for the first time what happened when, in April 1992, the possibility of a newspaper report forced him to reveal his illness to the world, the ordeal that ensued, and his feelings about it. We see how, during the last five years of his life, Ashe devoted the brilliance and strength that had made him a great tennis champion to the championship of great causes: justice for black men and women, the fight against all prejudice, the battle against AIDS, and active opposition to South Africa's apartheid and to U.S. policy toward Haitians seeking asylum here. With a quiet and moving openness Ashe talks about the athlete's life and about his contemporaries on the tennis court, among them Billie Jean King, Jimm

A tireless crusader for racial and social justice, a triumphant star in the all-white world of professional tennis, an outspoken voice on AIDS issues--Arthur Ashe was all of these and more. Gone too soon, Ashe has left behind an eloquent testament to his deepest beliefs with this book. "Rarely has a man been so in touch with his feelings."--The Boston Globe

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this inspirational, eloquent autobiographical memoir, tennis great Ashe, who died earlier this year, describes his battle against AIDS, which he contracted from a blood transfusion during open-heart surgery, and tells of his struggle against racism. Written with Rampersad, biographer of Langston Hughes, the first-person narrative negates the conventional image of Ashe as cold and aloof, giving us instead a complex, vulnerable, emotional man. The death of his mother when he was six left "an emptiness in my soul.'' Ashe writes of his dependence on his wife Jeanne and recalls growing up under segregation in Virginia, which motivated his activist opposition to South Africa's apartheid. Politically outspoken, Ashe defends the distribution of condoms in schools, attacks demagogues like Al Sharpton and criticizes "the decline of the African American community'' and its "new order . . . based squarely on revenge, not justice, with morality discarded.'' The volume closes with a deeply moving letter to his six-year-old daughter Camera. Photos.
School Library Journal
YA-An introspective and poignant book that is well-worth reading. With the help of Langston Hughes's biographer, Ashe has written a very absorbing account of his life. He tells of his mother's death when he was six years old and the strong influence of his loving but demanding father that stood him in good stead when he entered the all-white world of tennis in the 1960s. He recounts his athletic career and the difficulties he experienced on the court with players such as John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. But the major portion of the book focuses on the 1980s, during which time he had two heart operations and contracted the AIDS virus via a blood transfusion. Although not a homosexual, Ashe became a sympathetic activist for the gay community. He was very vocal in his last years, speaking out against prejudice towards AIDS victims, racism, apartheid, and U.S. policy towards Haitians wishing to enter this country. This is the inspiring story of a premier athlete and a fine human being who cared passionately about his profession, his family, and the causes he embraced.-Pat Royal, Crossland High School, Camp Springs, MD
John Mort
Arthur Ashe's death in February from pneumonia related to his chronic heart disease and AIDS gives a special poignancy to his memoir. Yet Days of Grace, written with the help of Rampersad, Langston Hughes' biographer, would have been interesting in any case. In the 1960s, Ashe broke the whites-only barriers of tennis to become the most successful Davis Cup player ever. John McEnroe, under Ashe's captaincy, later broke Ashe's record. Unlike McEnroe or Jimmy Connors, however, Ashe was cool on the court and reserved--even shy--when meeting the public. He did for tennis what Jackie Robinson did for baseball, but activism was difficult for him. Ashe recalls a conversation with Jesse Jackson, in which Jackson observed, "Arthur, you're just not arrogant enough." Ashe's memoir concentrates on the 1980s, during which he underwent two heart operations; the second involved the transfusion that gave him AIDS. Ashe was not gay, though contracting AIDS made him sympathethic to gay athletes and gay causes; his chapter on sexuality--though in some ways gratuitous--shows Ashe at his most perceptive. Ashe even considers all sides of an issue that hurt him: his "outing" by USA Today. Not least, Ashe's book succeeds as an exemplary sports memoir, rendering in detail his difficulties with McEnroe and Connors in Davis Cup competition. Ashe was a classy athlete, and his last words are gentlemanly and brave. He concludes with a message for his young daughter, Camera. She'll be proud of her father.
Kirkus Reviews
A genuinely affecting testament from the quietly activist champion-athlete who died young this past February. With an unobtrusive assist from Rampersad (The Life of Langston Hughes, 1988), Ashe offers a thoughtful, if episodic, appreciation of his well-spent life. Opening with a replay of the distressing events leading up to his dramatic disclosure in April 1992 that he'd contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion following open-heart surgery ten years earlier, the author takes a leisurely and comfortably digressive stroll down memory lane, evenhandedly recalling—among other matters—just what it was like to be the first black to compete successfully in the predominantly white world of big-time tennis. The winner of three Grand Slam titles, Ashe developed heart disease that ended his pro career while still near the top of his game. Subsequently appointed captain of America's Davis Cup team, he proved there can be fulfilling life after sports. A low-key, albeit effective, advocate of racial justice and allied causes, the globe-trotting author enjoyed an uncommonly felicitous personal life. With time out for candid commentary on fellow touring pros (Connors, McEnroe, Smith, et al.), he includes a host of heartfelt tributes to his wife, parents, and others who helped him along an upward path. With considerable eloquence and dignity, Ashe also affirms the do-as- you-would-be-done-by precepts that sustained him. He closes with a poignant letter to his young daughter, which, though written in anticipation of death, looks to the future with some hope, as well as backward to her strong family roots. A class act that, sadly, will have no encore. (Thirty-two pages ofphotos—not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780517157619
  • Publisher: Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/28/1996

Meet the Author

Joe Morton has appeared in the films Of Mice and Men, Forever Young and Terminator 2, and starred in Brother from Another Planet. On television, he appeared in "Equal Justice" and currently stars in producer Robert DeNiro's new anthology series "Tribeca."
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 29, 2011

    Such a wealth of inpiration

    Hands down Arthur Ashe is the greatest example of what an athlete should be. Days of Grace should be mandatory for any rookie entering a professional sport. I miss you Mr. Ashe...there still is no one like you in sports.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 15, 2011

    Nice

    This book is inspiring and moving for a teen like me

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    Arthur Ashe was more than just a tennis player.

    If you never had the opportunity to watch Arthur Ashe play tennis, or did not know what this man did for the game of tennis, this book is a wonderful starting point. But it gives you something more than just an accounting of his prolific career. And it is more than a black man talking about being black in a white-majority sport or country. Simply put it is a candid view into a very complex, compassionate and courageous man's life, and about the relationships that helped him mature and grow throughout his life. Take the time to learn about this man, his fight for respect both on and off the court, and his battle with AIDS. And see how a humble person can make a world of difference in so many lives both during and after his life on earth. He was more than just a tennis player.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2008

    By Warriors Book Fan

    Arthur Ashe is a true inspiration. Before this book, I hardly knew anything about him. But after reading this book, sharing his experiences, I can understand him more. I was not looking forward to reading this book for school but, 'Bravo. Bravo.'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2007

    A reviewer

    I had to read this book for school and it ruined my vacation. It sucked . A LOT.It was boring, redundant and it could not capture my attention in the slightest.The story could have been interesting and was moving, but his writing was not captivating.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2004

    Brilliant....Real...From the Heart

    What a wonderful book from a wonderful human, who worked all his life to make equality in this world. Not just his little place, but the world: Africa, Aids, etc. Arthur was my tennis hero growing up. Even today I look to him still as my hero and role model. Black, white or purple it does not matter, Arthur was what we all want to be. To write this book while dealing with the Aids virsus is a great testamony to his character and love for man kind. Not a woe is me kind of story, but one of forgivenss and love for all to read and practice. Alot of great spiritual books are written by men and women the world over. But for the truth of reality forlife,nothing matches Arthur's humanity,compassion and vision for the future. Read this and you will be touched and changed forever.

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