Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Game of Character (BOOK REVIEW)



A Game of Character:

A Family Journey from Chicago’s Southside to the Ivy League and Beyond

by Craig Robinson

Foreword by First Mother Marian Robinson

Gotham Books

Hardcover, $26.00

302 pages, Illustrated

ISBN: 978-1-592-40548-0


Book Review by Kam Williams


“A fundamental teaching my parents always emphasized [was] that life happens to you, putting choices in your path that offer an abundance of opportunities as well as challenges, and that the best choices are usually the ones that require courage… Really, that’s what inspired me to write A Game of Character—not only to share what I’ve learned, but also to help reclaim the value of character that I believe is as intrinsic to basketball as it is to life. What’s more, as the pages ahead will elaborate, true character is a quality that can be found everywhere and anywhere, in some of the least likely places—including the Southside of Chicago.”

-- Excerpted from the Preface (pg. xxvi)


                For most of her life, Michelle Robinson lived in the shadow of her older brother, Craig, both literally and figuratively. After all, not only did he always tower over and protect her from neighborhood bullies as a child, but he was also even more of a standout later at their alma mater, Princeton University, where the 6’7” basketball phenom was twice voted the Ivy League Player of the Year.

                As Craig reflects in this touching, intimate memoir, “Michelle was the head of my fan club… Being known as Craig Robinson’s little sister was a badge of honor that she wore well into our college years. Of course, later on the tables would turn and I would have the honor of being known as Michelle Obama’s big brother!” We all know that she went on to study law, marry Barack and become a cultural icon as the first African-American First Lady, but her overachieving sibling’s accomplishments are nonetheless noteworthy in their own right.

                Post Princeton, he went on to play professionally in Europe, before returning to the States to earn his MBA at the prestigious University of Chicago. Next, he would enjoy a meteoric rise up the corporate ladder to the rank of vice president at Morgan Stanley before following his passion and taking a huge pay cut to be an assistant college basketball coach. But his hard work and dedication led to the head coach position at Oregon State where he is still employed today.

A Game of Character is mostly a heartfelt homage crediting Craig and Michelle’s parents, First Mother Marian Robinson and the late Fraser Robinson, III with making countless selfless sacrifices on behalf of their offspring while instilling them both with “fundamental values like love, discipline and respect.” What makes the book so compelling for this critic is that after reading so many unauthorized biographies about the Obamas by authors neither one seemed to have spoken with much if at all, we finally have a legit opus by a person who you tend to believe when he says he grew up sharing the same bedroom with his little sis who is now the First Lady. Sorry, nobody can question the cred of anyone that close to her.

And when you factor in that Chicago witnessed 40 gang-related shootings on the Southside over a recent weekend, the deteriorating state of affairs in the Windy City makes this uplifting success story about how a couple of kids miraculously made it out of that very same ‘hood all the more remarkable, refreshing and eminently worthwhile.

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