A Most Beautiful Thing: The True Story of America's First All-Black High School Rowing Team

A Most Beautiful Thing: The True Story of America's First All-Black High School Rowing Team

by Arshay Cooper


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The true story of the first all-Black high school crew team that went on to do great things. An inspirational story of Arshay Cooper and students from Manley High School in Chicago's West Side who stumble upon crew, learn to row and become champions. The sport, and the conditioning it requires, bring about physical changes to their bodies, but it's the positive mental and emotional benefits they discover that are the best part.

Now a documentary narrated by Common, produced by Grant Hill, Dwyane Wade, and 9th Wonder, from filmmaker Mary Mazzio

The moving true story of a group of young men growing up on Chicago's West side who form the first all-Black high school rowing team in the nation, and in doing so not only transform a sport, but their lives.

Growing up on Chicago’s Westside in the 90’s, Arshay Cooper knows the harder side of life. The street corners are full of gangs, the hallways of his apartment complex are haunted by drug addicts he calls “zombies” with strung out arms, clutching at him as he passes by. His mother is a recovering addict, and his three siblings all sleep in a one room apartment, a small infantry against the war zone on the street below.

Arshay keeps to himself, preferring to write poetry about the girl he has a crush on, and spends his school days in the home-ec kitchen dreaming of becoming a chef. And then one day as he’s walking out of school he notices a boat in the school lunchroom, and a poster that reads “Join the Crew Team”.

Having no idea what the sport of crew is, Arshay decides to take a chance. This decision to join is one that will forever change his life, and those of his fellow teammates. As Arshay and his teammates begin to come together to learn how to row—many never having been in water before—the sport takes them from the mean streets of Chicago, to the hallowed halls of the Ivy League. But Arshay and his teammates face adversity at every turn, from racism, gang violence, and a sport that has never seen anyone like them before.

A Most Beautiful Thing is the inspiring true story about the most unlikely band of brothers that form a family, and forever change a sport and their lives for the better.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250754776
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: 02/23/2021
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 11,672
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

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 USRowing Golden Oars Award. He lives in Brooklyn with his family.

Table of Contents

1 Holy City 1

2 Barbershop Prayers 15

3 In Sync 27

4 Grace 36

5 Like Water 45

6 A Different World 67

7 Alvin 90

8 Race Day 103

9 White Tablecloth 119

10 Moving on Up 127

11 Captain 142

12 Dry Tears 157

13 2K 172

14 Spring Break 199

15 Chasing Gold 205

Epilogue 223

Acknowledgments 227

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