Author Arshay Cooper visits Alliance to discuss a novel

ALLIANCE – Making a difference in the world requires everyone to do their part.

Arshay Cooper, this year’s author One Book One Community selection, shared this message with an audience Thursday at Union Avenue United Methodist Church as he discussed the inspiration for writing his book.

“When you eliminate small dreams, there is room for bigger dreams,” he said.

Cooper wrote a memoir titled “A Most Beautiful Thing”, in which he details the first all-black high school rowing team in the United States. In the book, he shares his journey and that of his teammates as they learn to row, despite many of them having never heard of the sport. He also detailed the hardships and racism they faced while navigating a predominantly white sport.

Cooper grew up on Chicago’s Westside in the 1990s. As a child, he tried different sports, but couldn’t find the right fit. When a rowing team formed at his high school, he was initially hesitant to participate. But rowing turned out to be the sport he was looking for.

“It calmed the storm inside me,” he said.

Years later, Cooper decided to write “A Most Beautiful Thing” because he felt the story’s message of overcoming adversity would resonate with young people. He self-published the book, and it was later turned into a documentary narrated by Common and produced by Grant Hill, Dwyane Wade and 9th Wonder.

The film received a 2021 Gracie Award and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award and a Critics’ Choice Association Award for Best Sports Documentary.

Cooper said making the documentary was a “special” experience. He said his goal is to inspire the next generation and introduce more children to rowing.

Founded in 2004, One Book One Community is a joint effort between various community partners, including Rodman Public Library, Friends of Rodman Public Library, Mount Union University, Greater Alliance Foundation, and The Alliance Review.

Rodman Public Library director Eric Taggart, who is a member of the group that makes the One Book One Community selection, said he knew from reading Cooper’s memoir that it had to be this year’s book.

Contact Paige at 330-580-8577 or [email protected], or on Twitter at @paigembenn.

Lola R. McClure