Thank you to everyone who attended our first virtual Meet the Author event featuring Arshay Cooper. For those of you who were unable to attend, we invite you to view the recorded event through November 21.
Moving, mesmerizing, and highly relevant, A Most Beautiful Thing was recently made into a feature-length documentary, narrated by Common and executive produced by Dwyane Wade, Grant Hill, and 9th Wonder. Learn more about the book and film at the A Most Beautiful Thing website. The documentary is available to stream for free on the Peacock platform, and is expected to stream on Amazon sometime this fall.
To borrow a copy of A Most Beautiful Thing, visit our catalog.
Wilmette Public Library has partnered with Semicolon, a black woman-owned bookstore in Chicago, to sell signed copies of A Most Beautiful Thing. To purchase a copy, visit Semicolon's website.
To support A Most Beautiful Thing Inclusion Fund, which supports education, scholarship, and mentorship programs to get more kids rowing on the water, focusing on non-traditional communities and communities of color where youth face barriers to participation in the sport, visitThe Pocock Foundation.
Partners include Concept2 and HUDSON (read the press release here); advisors to this fund include Olympians Anita DeFrantz, David Banks, Aquil Abdullah, Alex Osborne, Pat Spratlen, Mike Teti and Mary Mazzio as well as the film’s executive producer, Bill Hudson.
You can learn more ways to support Arshay's work on his website.
In this deeply personal book, Mr. Cooper describes his life growing up in the 1990’s on Chicago’s West Side. In a neighborhood mostly known through stereotypes and bleak statistics, he lived in a one-bedroom apartment with his three siblings and single mother, a recovering drug addict. As a teenager, Mr. Cooper attended Manley High School, where less than 50 percent of the senior class graduated and only 10 percent matriculated to college. As he witnessed murders and dead bodies on the streets and saw a world filled with drug dealers and gang rivalry, he felt “like God existed everywhere but here.”
Mr. Cooper’s life was forever altered, however, when a Chicago-based coach began recruiting Manley students for a new rowing team. With great skepticism, Mr. Cooper and a handful of classmates, some from rival gangs, joined the team. Together, they rewrote their futures and transformed the sport by becoming the first all-Black high school crew team in the country.
Moving, mesmerizing, and highly relevant, A Most Beautiful Thing celebrates an unlikely band of brothers who changed a sport not in spite of their circumstances but because of them. Told with openness and honesty, the memoir beautifully captures the adversities that these young men faced along with the unexpected joys and successes that rowing brought to their lives. It’s an unlikely story, yet one that reveals the extraordinary depths of human potential.
As Mr. Cooper writes in the book, “I didn’t think we could get along with people who didn’t look like us, but rowing changed that for me. Crew changed our mindset, lifestyle, work ethic […] The experience was never just about rowing, it was about bridging the water.”
Ron Stallworth, author of the New York Times bestseller Black Klansman, described A Most Beautiful Thing as “a triumphant tale of overcoming odds, with the sport of rowing-―not the conventional football or basketball―as a catalyst to (the) crew's salvation.
The Chicago Tribune described A Most Beautiful Thing as "ultimately uplifting and always enlightening,” and Kirkus Reviews called the book “engrossing as a sports memoir but also relevant to any conversation about privilege and race.”
Arshay Cooper is a rower, author, motivational speaker, and volunteer for numerous community outreach organizations. He works with nonprofits focusing on opening the boathouse doors to everyone, and he was the recipient of a 2017 US Rowing Golden Oars Award. He lives in Brooklyn with his family.