Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Man In The Middle" by John Amaechi

Last year, I had the immense pleasure of hearing John Amaechi speak at my school’s “Diversity Day.” He was the very last speaker at the end of a very long day, and most people expected his speech to drag on forever. However, everyone was extremely intrigued by what he had to say. Amaechi ended up being the school favorite, and not just because of his fantastic British accent.

That being said, I loved his biography, Man In The Middle. Amaechi has a distinctive literary voice that’s quite a pleasure to read. His writing style is very British. It is very factual and straightforward, but laced with little witticisms here and there. One of my favorite lines of his is when he says how he’s “experienced plenty of endorphin surges after an intense workout, but [he] must say [he’s] had better highs from a cup of Earl Grey tea.” And of course that line sounds even better when you hear it in your head in a British accent.

I really appreciate the honesty and authenticity that Amaechi brings forth in his stories and feelings. Though he was an NBA player, he admits that he hated sports and anything that made him sweat. And later in the book, he talks about how he felt that the whole locker-room situation in the NBA seemed more “gay” than he himself was. His upbringing also seems like quite a tough ordeal. He dealt with an emotionally abusive father who caused the rest of the Amaechi’s to run away to England. He even followed them there, only to threaten the young John’s mother. Much of his childhood worry is a mystery though, even to him, as his mother never divulged all the facts of her relationship with their father.

This book is definitely a great read for anybody with an interest in sports, or even literature and psychology. It’s an easy, fast read, but there are a few f-bombs thrown about and a bit of sexual imagery. Amaechi’s intelligence really shows in his style of writing, and I also greatly appreciated his use of gender-neutral pronouns.

One of the main messages I picked up from his autobiography was that not everyone fits into their stereotype. Would most people expect a 6’8” NBA player to be gay? Probably not. And in the same way, would somebody guess that the girl in the pink party dress with the bows in her hair is a lesbian? Maybe not. Somebody doesn’t have to look a certain way to be a certain way. And that’s more than okay. Amaechi got his start in basketball because somebody recruited him based on his height. He would have much rather been a psychologist, or even a doctor if he had the stomach for it. The way you are on the outside doesn’t always have something to do with who you are on the inside. It’s important to never judge somebody without getting to know them at first. Everyone should be given a chance to show who they are before somebody else gets to decide who they are.

Review by Soraya. Add your review of "Man In The Middle" in comments!

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