Streetball Is Life: Lessons Earned on the Asphalt

Rowman & Littlefield. Oct. 2020. 204p. Tr $28. ISBN 9781538139271.
Gr 7 Up–Volponi recounts the adventures and lessons of playing street basketball in New York City the summer before his freshman year of college. The author and his team, a mix of adults and teens his own age, relentlessly combed the city’s parks and courts looking for a game when they stumbled upon the court known as the Proving Ground. Meanwhile, Volponi faced decisions about his future, such as what classes to take, whether to play on his college basketball team, and navigating the dating scene. Back matter includes references and a section about the influence of basketball on other aspects of culture, such as art, fashion, and cinema. The chapters are interspersed with quotes from famous basketball players and coaches as well as reflections on life skills gleaned from basketball, such as communication and various group dynamics. The memoir is filled with cinematic details and colorful characters, which bring the streetball subculture to life. While the text repeatedly stresses the diversity among the streetballers in their ages and backgrounds, race is never mentioned. As the narrative takes place in a city as racially diverse as NYC, this colorblind approach somewhat undermines the book’s message about the unifying power of the sport.
VERDICT An entertaining title that will likely be very popular with basketball fans, and will appeal to readers who enjoy realistic fiction.

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