Basketball, high school, culture, race
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
On a native American reservation in northern Arizona, there is a small patch of land where Chinle High School sits. However, nearly everyone on the 17.5 million acre reservation knows about the school because of its basketball team. At the school and the surrounding community, the game and the team are a passion. The love of the game has been passed down for generations. Journalist Michael Powell follows the team for one season and his observations are the basis for this excellent book.
Basketball is only a part of the story. Powell intertwines stories from many different Navajo people – young and old, male and female, players and spectators, even the coach himself – in order to illustrate much about life on the reservation for everyone as well as the excellent basketball played at the school and on the playgrounds where it is known as “rez ball.”
The reader will learn about the hardships endured, the traditions and respect for nature embedded in Navajo culture and oh, yes, how important the basketball games are for everyone, not just the players. The perspectives of the players are also interesting lessons in the conflicts they face – do they work on their games in the hope of gaining a college scholarship? By doing so, they will have to live life outside of the reservation, something many of them have never experienced, but on the other hand, many see no hope for improvement in their lives if they stay.
Powell writes with equal excellence about basketball and native American culture, both the beautiful and the ugly. I found this mixture an excellent narrative about the entire culture fascinating and when the Wildcats kept winning and kept advancing, I couldn’t help but cheer them on as hard as I would for my favorite college or professional teams. Any reader interested in native American culture as well as basketball should add this one to their library.
I wish to thank Blue Rider Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.