I’m a sucker for a good story about athletes overcoming adversity.

A Most Beautiful Thing: A True Story of America’s First All-Black High School Rowing Team (Flatiron Books, 2020) did not disappoint. It was first published in 2015 under the title Suga Water by Wise Ink Creative Publishing. And it has been made into a movie, which I have not seen.

Author Arshay Cooper takes readers on a journey through what it was like growing up on the west side of Chicago in the late 1990s and the discovery of crew. While I learned a lot about the sport, what was more intriguing and gratifying was the transformation of these adolescents. It proves that a little help, faith, support, and opportunity can change lives.

Crew is traditionally a sport reserved for white people with money. As such, snide remarks were made about this all-black team by classmates, other teams, and adults. Even parents were skeptical and didn’t allow some of their off-spring to participate.

I didn’t look up the author until after I had read the book. I didn’t want to know his whole story beyond having written a book about such a pivotal point in his life. After all, many in Cooper’s neighborhood were in gangs, selling drugs, with a future that didn’t involve higher education or well-paying jobs. I felt connected to Cooper and his teammates; feeling like I was rooting from them with each turn of the page.

The book was incredibly inspirational.

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