Read This Book On Basketball, Belonging, and Survival by a MacArthur Genius

Book cover of There's Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension by Hanif Abdurraqib

There’s Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension by Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, cultural critic, and MacArthur Genius, but before he was any of these things, he was, and will always be, an Ohioan. On the surface, this book is about basketball, Ohio, poverty, and incarceration; however, it only takes a couple pages for readers to realize that it’s about so much more. There’s Always This Year is about belonging and survival and connection and above all, love. It’s a blend of memoir and exploration that is bursting with love and told in such palpable earnestness that a reader doesn’t need to be from Ohio or know a thing about basketball in order to feel a flicker of love bloom in their own heart by sheer influence of Abdurraqib’s writing.

This is a book about home, and home is sometimes the place where a person is born and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes home isn’t even an actual place, but instead the idea of home is personified in a sports team. The author writes about basketball in the way that basketball should be written about — the sport itself, especially in the Black community, is itself about love and connection and promise and hope. One cannot write about basketball in Ohio without diving into the sheer depth of hopes and dreams that folks had tasked LeBron James with fulfilling. The author writes about this in ways that are both beautiful and devastating. Abdurraqib also writes about his own history of struggle and incarceration in a place he loved so much but didn’t seem to love him back sometimes.

This book is a great read that pushed and pulled my heart with every page.

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