Book Review:

Hoop Roots

by Joe "Beppe" Rosenberg
Hoop Roots

by John Edgar Wideman
Houghton Mifflin Co; ISBN: 0395857317

To many of us classified as Caucasian, the mores of our African-American brethren can seem a mystery. Although we live in integrated communities and work in multiracial surroundings, Baltimore is mostly segregated when it comes to our leisure. Growing up in similar circumstances in Pittsburgh, John Edgar Wideman makes a valiant attempt to explain his perspective in his new book, “Hoop Roots” (Houghton Mifflin, 2001).

What Mr. Wideman uses as a reference point is the game of basketball as played and observed in neighborhood courts. He ruminates about watching his grandmother gradually fade away and learning to play on these courts. He reviews his life and relationships and with a sure hand guides us into a Black man’s psyche.

I doubt that reading this book will make the reader, white or black, less racist and more tolerant. Its air of melancholy is too intense to unlock the chains that keep our society bifurcated by pigmentation. However, what the book shows is the universal angst of a brilliant sensitive man adjusting to his age and the world around him. We do indeed feel his pain.


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This story was published on December 5, 2001.