Friday, July 11, 2008

Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow

Authors: James Sturm and Rich Tommaso

First line: Ain't easy leavin' your wife and child, but you can't be a ballplayer unless you willin' to travel.

Why you should read this book: Told from the point of view of a black athlete who once faced off against the great Satchel Paige and came out on top, if only for a moment, this graphic novel offers slices from a time before Jackie Robinson, when Paige, who was widely considered the greatest pitcher of his day, was not allowed to try out for the major leagues due to racial discrimination. The story gives a good picture of life in the Negro League, prejudice and racially-motivated violence in the South in the era of Jim Crow, and the sense of humor necessary to survive and thrive in the midst of all these factors. The story also offers a wonderful sense of narrative redemption as the narrator, whose head-to-head with Paige left him unable to play ball, jumps fourteen years into the future to the day when he and his young son witness Paige's humiliation of the most hostile white men in their town.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're all for civil rights; you just can't stomach play-by-play descriptions of sporting events.

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