February 19, 2018

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Becoming Kareem by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Raymond Obstfeld | SLJ Review

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redstarABDUL-JABBAR, Kareem & Raymond Obstfeld. Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court. 304p. Little, Brown. Nov. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316555388. POP

Gr 7 Up –The NBA’s all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, traces his path to becoming a basketball superstar and Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. Born in Harlem in 1947, shy, thoughtful Abdul-Jabbar was not on anyone’s “most likely to succeed” list at the start. In this intimate narrative, he reveals how the influence of selfless, wise coaches and role models helped shape him into a proud man who scored big in basketball and grew confident as an African American and a practicing Muslim. While the tone of the work is understated and contemplative, the memoir contains powerful ideas for reflection and discussion about racism, politics, identity, and religion. The book is about so much more than a single basketball star’s rise to fame. Abdul-Jabbar intertwines his narrative with that of other people who railed against injustice such as Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, and Bruce Lee. Students who enjoy sports will appreciate the details of Abdul-Jabbar’s talent and acclaim, as will those who gravitate toward insightful contemporary reads from authors such as Jason Reynolds. ­VERDICT  This timely and unforgettable memoir is essential for middle and high school collections, and affords rich opportunities for classroom and book club discussions.–Melissa Williams, Berwick Academy, ME

This review was published in the School Library Journal November 2017 issue.

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