Heaven is a Playground book review

The second book I read this week on the train was Heaven is a Playground by Rick Telander.   Telander spent the summer chronicling life on a ghetto basketball court getting to know all the players and the lifestyle, eventually coaching a group of them forming a traveling team.
Heavin is a Playground offers up a fairly unflinching look at the life of these basketball players and the attitudes of their neighborhood.   Good kids play basketball, bad kids sell/do drugs.   There's no real thoughts on any other possibilities around. 

Most of the kids stuck me as desperate to get into a good prep school or college to get out of the ghetto, but few seem to grasp on to the fact that they need to be working in school now to take advantage of the college experience educationally.  

It's difficult for me to imagine the life these kids grow up with and how little chance they have to escape their environment.   My only complaint upon reading the book is that it was written so long ago, and I'd love to have an update on "where are they now" or a similar book chronicling how attitudes have changed.

It feels a little dated at times which is natural given that Telander wrote the book 30+ years ago, otherwise it's a fascinating read and definitely worth the time.   If I had read this 30 years ago, I'd probably have given it a 9 or 10. 

Final rating: 7/10


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  • In a similar vein, rent the movie "Hoop Dreams" if you have not seen it already.

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