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Muck City: Winning and Losing in Football's Forgotten Townby Bryan Mealer
Synopses & Reviews
In a town deep in the Florida Everglades, where high school football is the only escape, a haunted quarterback, a returning hero, and a scholar struggle against terrible odds.
The loamy black “muck” that surrounds Belle Glade, Florida once built an empire for Big Sugar and provided much of the nation's vegetables, often on the backs of roving, destitute migrants. Many of these were children who honed their skills along the field rows and started one of the most legendary football programs in America. Belle Glade’s high school team, the Glades Central Raiders, has sent an extraordinary number of players to the National Football League – 27 since 1985, with five of those drafted in the first round.
The industry that gave rise to the town and its team also spawned the chronic poverty, teeming migrant ghettos, and violence that cripples futures before they can ever begin. Muck City tells the story of quarterback Mario Rowley, whose dream is to win a championship for his deceased parents and quiet the ghosts that haunt him; head coach Jessie Hester, the town’s first NFL star, who returns home to “win kids, not championships”; and Jonteria Willliams, who must build her dream of becoming a doctor in one of the poorest high schools in the nation. For boys like Mario, being a Raider is a one-shot window for escape and a college education. Without football, Jonteria and the rest must make it on brains and fortitude alone. For the coach, good intentions must battle a town’s obsession to win above all else.
Beyond the Friday night lights, this book is an engrossing portrait of a community mired in a shameful past and uncertain future, but with the fierce will to survive, win, and escape to a better life.
"Drawing comparisons to the 1990 bestseller Friday Night Lights, this football narrative chronicles the evolution of high school football in Belle Glade, Fla. — among the poorest communities in the U.S. and defined by the fertile black silt that helped build a sugarcane-farming empire. The city, populated predominantly by African-Americans and Hispanics, is home to Glades Central High School, an academic underachiever whose football team has sent more than 30 players to the NFL since 1985. Mealer (The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind) followed the 2010 Raiders in pursuit of a record-breaking seventh state championship and introduces readers to Kelvin Benjamin, an agile six-foot-six receiver nicknamed 'the beautiful freak' who is rabidly pursued by college recruiters; former migrant worker — turned — NFL receiver Jessie Hester, who returns to coach his alma mater at a critical juncture in the program's storied history; and orphan Mario Rowley, an overweight quarterback who (like most Raiders) considers football his only means to escape the persistent presence of gunfire, drugs, and AIDS. Mealer recounts Belle Glade's colorful history, reports from living rooms and locker rooms, and perfectly captures the area's distinct dialect." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
BRYAN MEALER is the author of the New York Times bestselling The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, which he wrote with William Kamkwamba, and the award-winning children’s book of the same title. He also wrote All Things Must Fight to Live, which chronicled his years reporting the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a staff correspondent for the Associated Press and Harper’s.
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