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A Most Beautiful Thing: The True Story of America’s First All-Black High School Rowing Team

By: Arshay Cooper

Growing up on Chicago’s Westside in the 90’s, Arshay Cooper knows the harder side of life. The street corners are full of gangs, the hallways of his apartment complex are haunted by junkies he calls “zombies” with strung out arms, clutching at him as he passes by. His mother is a recovering addict, and his three siblings all sleep in a one room apartment, a small infantry against the war zone on the street below.

Arshay keeps to himself, preferring to write poetry about the girl he has a crush on, and spends his school days in the home-ec kitchen dreming of becoming a chef. And then one day as he’s walking out of school he notices boats lined up on the floor of the gymnasium, and a poster that reads “Join the Crew Team”.

Arshay, having no idea what the sport of crew is, decides to take a chance. This decision to join is one that will forever change his life, and those of his fellow teammates. As Arshay and his teammates begin to come together, learning not only how to row, many never having been in water before, the sport takes them from the mean streets of Chicago, to the hallowed halls of the Ivy League. But Arshay and his teammates face adversity at every turn, from racism, gang violence, and a sport that has never seen anyone like them before.

ISBN: 9781250754769

JLG Release: Oct 2020

Sensitive Areas: Language: Strong Language , Discrimination: Reference/Discussion , Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: Reference or Discussion

Arshay Cooper , Manley High School (Chicago, Illinois) , Crew (rowing) , Rowing history , African American high school students , Twentieth-century social conditions in Chicago, Illinois , Biography , Writing poetry , Sports and recreation , Overcoming adversity , Fighting stereotypes , Teamwork   

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Sports High

Grades 9 & Up

12 titles/year


Book Details



First Release

October 2020



Dewey Classification


Trim Size

9 3/10" x 6"

Page Count


Accelerated Reader


Scholastic Reading Counts





Print Book


Hardcover edition


Flatiron Books (Adult)

Potentially Sensitive Areas

Language: Strong Language , Discrimination: Reference/Discussion , Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: Reference or Discussion


Arshay Cooper, Manley High School (Chicago, Illinois), Crew (rowing), Rowing history, African American high school students, Twentieth-century social conditions in Chicago, Illinois, Biography, Writing poetry, Sports and recreation, Overcoming adversity, Fighting stereotypes, Teamwork,  

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