A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist follows an embattled Little League team in inner-city Newark, New Jersey, revealing the complex realities of urban life in one of America's most dangerous cities
When Rodney Mason, an ex-con drug dealer from Newark's rough South Ward, was shot and paralyzed, he vowed to turn his life around. A former high-school pitching ace with a 93 mph fastball, Mason decided to form a Little League team to help boys avoid the street life that had claimed his youth and mobility. Predictably, the players strugglethey endure poverty, unstable family lives with few positive male role models, failing schools, and dangerous neighborhoodsbut through the fists and tears, lopsided losses and rare victories, this bunch of misfits becomes a team, and in doing so gives the community something to root for. With in-depth reporting, fascinating characters, and vivid prose, Jonathan Schuppe's A Chance to Win is both a penetrating, true-to-life portrait of what's at stake for kids growing up poor in America's inner cities and a portrait of Newark itself, a struggling city that has recently known great hope as well as failure.
|Publisher:||Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Jonathan Schuppe is an award-winning journalist who has shared a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey's resignation. He won the coveted J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Prize for A Chance to Win. He lives with his wife and daughter in Maplewood, New Jersey.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My Take: Characters: Rodney - a former drug dealer and promising pitcher, paralyzed for a decade from a shot fired by his girlfriend's new boyfriend. Jonathan Schuppe - a reporter for Newark's Star Ledger who wrote an article about the inner city featuring Rodney. Since the printing of the article, they have kept in touch. Dewan - his mom is a teacher raising two boys by herself while her husband (Dewan's stepfather) serves a prison sentence. Derek - born to drug-addicted parents, he moves from relative to relative with no real sense of stability. Thaiquan Scott - a former ex-con who now works at a hospital. He and his wife are determined to keep their children active and away from trouble. This is a story of loss and redemption. It is a tale of Rodney's slow progress towards a "better" life and his search for meaning. It is a tale of two boys - one hopeful and earnest, one rather brooding and unsettled. It is a story of a man working hard to keep his children from making the same mistakes he made. It is a story of a city called Newark and it's hard-fought "renaissance" under Mayor Cory Booker. More than anything, it is a story of how a game called baseball brings them all together. The Bad News Bears this is not - this is a true, gritty, eye-opening, at times heart-breaking, story of loss and redemption that illustrates the uncertainty of many young people's lives as well as how society makes it almost impossible for someone with a criminal record to break free and go on to a productive life. When a new baseball field is built in 2007, Rodney sees it as an opportunity for him to "do something right" - to steer kids away from the streets and give them something to work for and to look forward to. Rodney's mom single-handedly raised five children while her husband wandered to and fro and eventually died. They grew up poor, and Rodney started dealing drugs to buy groceries for the family. After a stint in prison, and with his life now circumscribed by the boundaries of a wheelchair, Rodney has worked with an anti-violence activist, Thomas Ellis, giving speeches at schools warning kids of the dangers of "street life". He has met with many disappointments and has had ups and downs in his struggle to rebuild his life. Now he struggles to build a baseball team in an environment where baseball is looked on as a "white man's" sport. Pulling together a ragtag team of kids, most of them never having played baseball before, he finds his calling. In this narrative biography, Mr. Schuppe has done a masterful job of telling the tale of our urban youth, their parents, and the struggles the poor and working poor face - violence in their streets, the lure of easy drug money, the losses that end up breaking many spirits. I highly recommend this one for so many reasons. If you haven't grown up in an urban environment, it is extremely difficult to understand how so many people end up turning to a life of crime, drugs, and poverty. With empathy and clarity, Mr. Schuppe opens a path to that understanding. QUOTES: When he looked around Elizabeth Avenue now, he saw hundreds of children just like him, growing up just as he had - poor, fatherless, coasting through an inept school system, fascinated with the streets, confronted with the decisions that, fairly or not, would define their adult lives. He knew what they needed: someone to steer them from the path that had been so easy for him to take, the one that now ended at the front curb of the building where he grew up, parked in his wheelchair, watching the world go by. He just needed a way to reach them. When Rodney told his mother about his plans, she cautioned him against it. She'd been working as a substitute teacher in the South Ward and was appalled by the children's lack of discipline and respect for authority. "Those kids is off the hook," Clara warned her son. "you ain't going to be able to do it." "Mom," Rodney said, "I think something's wrong with me because I like doing stuff with bad kids." Derek didn't complain about his predicament - he said he was just hoping "to go with the flow" - but sometimes he let himself think how nice it would be to stay in the same home for more than a few months at a time. To have his own bed. To stay in the same school. To make friends and keep them. Those were luxuries he'd never known. "I'm not sad," he said. "You're not?" "I've seen so much that I don't get sad anymore." Book Club Recommendation: Yes; I think this title would be a great book club pick. I can see many different lines of discussion opening up with this one. BOOK RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars