Why: I love books with personal connections. Ties that make the book come alive beyond the reach of even the best authors. When this book come up on the TLC tour schedule, I immediately saw an intriguing sports story with names, locations and events that I knew. You see, Dartanyan Crockett and Leroy Sutton grew up in Cleveland, and after completing grad school at Ohio University, I had learned a thing or three about Cleveland. Top that off by the fact that two out of my three coworkers grew up in Cleveland, and I’ve had just about enough to consider myself a de facto resident.
If you could reverse the wheels and unbreak the bones, revive the dead and sober up the nights, if you could erase the scars and outrun the ghosts, then perhaps a story could have begun. But instead: The funeral. The accident. The evictions.
Story: Sports fans love the idea of an underdog – the tiny defeating the goliath. It is inspiring to see humans exceeding expectations and doing what had previously been deemed impossible. The television network ESPN has shared a number of these stories with viewers over the years, and producer Lisa Fenn was heavily involved in many of them. This book is her story behind the story of a piece called “Carry On” that ran as an SC: Featured work. More than what was seen on screen was developing however, and Lisa found herself swept into the lives of Dartanyan and Leroy. She experienced poverty in ways she never considered, and grew alongside these young men she had nothing in common with. Her memoir shares the journey of how trust and a sense of family were created in addition to a short, inspiring story made for television audiences. (YouTube version HERE.)
“Your money, your family, your security, your will, your future. Poverty takes a percentage of everything, indefinitely, until the cycle is broken.”
Opinion: When I consider memoirs, I don’t necessarily jump to adjectives such as exciting, eventful, and dramatic. Lisa Fenn does an excellent job with this piece though, keeping the story moving forward and intermixing her personal experiences with the activities of Dartanyan and Leroy. I particularly enjoyed the overarching theme of acceptance versus denial that touched so many characters in her life during this time. No doubt the film producing talent comes through in her writing style as the content is conversational and relatable, with the polish of someone who is used to viewing things as both creator and consumer. I binge read this book because each time I picked it up, I couldn’t stop at just one chapter. Just as those who pledged to help two talented young men, I became invested.
Story is the counterforce to intolerance. … My father found that when you learn another’s story, you can understand that person rather than fear him.
Recommendation: Carry On is probably a book for sports fans. This is not to say that it would not be enjoyable to a mass audience, but I believe that readers who live for athletics will find it the most satisfying. It is also an honest look at how society perceives “people like Dartanyan and Leroy” in terms of their financial status, their disabilities, and their circumstances. Wrestling and ESPN aside, is a great book for readers with an interest in social issues and poverty in America.
Dartanyan rose above them all with a style of his own: indomitable spirit.
Journaling Prompts: (If you haven’t read any of my other reviews, I enjoy putting together a few questions about the book for those that have already read, or choose to read the book after viewing this post!)
- Did you grow up with a local paper? Do you remember the local sports? Was it a big deal to be featured in that paper?
- How would you feel if someone from ESPN (or other national network) showed up and said they wanted to create a feature about you? Describe the range of emotions?
- Can you say that you connected with Dartayan and Leroy?
- Were the feelings that Lisa described fairly accurate with yours? The frustration following along with the love?
- Lisa also describes some of the preconceived notions she had regarding poverty and those in similar circumstances to the boys. How did these passages affect you?