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Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City Hardcover – September 14, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (September 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605296376
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605296371
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,423,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

High-school sports—like sports at every level—are seldom just about competition. Politics, money, ambition, and race are often as important as speed and strength. Jennings, a Sports Illustrated veteran, shadowed the football program at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, during the 2007 season. It wasn’t just any season; it was the fiftieth anniversary of the 1957 integration of the school. He traces the tumultuous racial machinations of the Little Rock school district through the years, noting the white migration to the suburbs and the rise of private schools, which serve as a haven for those who wish to avoid the mostly black public-school system. In this often-difficult environment, head coach Bernie Cox built a football powerhouse around discipline, accountability, citizenship, and tradition. But the anniversary year of 2007 would not be an easy one. The kids, seemingly divorced from the winning tradition, never bonded as teammates or, perhaps, were just not as talented as their predecessors. Jennings takes readers on a thoughtful, sometimes disheartening tour of urban high-school athletics, a tour that provides no answers but raises all the right questions. --Wes Lukowsky


"Carry the Rock transcends the season-on-the-brink genre." --Wall Street Journal

"Jennings seems to epitomize the journalistic ideal that stories aren't meant to tell people what to think, they're meant to tell people what to think about." --Sync Weekly

"Unsentimental yet inspiring..."
--Joe Queenan, author of True Believers: The Tragic Inner Life of Sports Fans and Closing Time: A Memoir

"When a native son juxtaposes passion for football and the tumultuous history of race relations in Little Rock, the result is a must-read page turner. " --Minnijean Brown Trickey, Little Rock Nine member

More About the Author

Jay Jennings is a freelance writer whose journalism, book reviews and humor have appeared in many national magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Oxford American, and Travel & Leisure. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times Book Review and the San Francisco Chronicle.

He began his writing career as a reporter at Sports Illustrated, followed by four years as the features editor at Tennis magazine. His work has been recognized by The Best American Sports Writing annual and has appeared in the humor anthology Mirth of a Nation: The Best Contemporary Humor. He is a two-time MacDowell Colony fellow in fiction and was awarded a grant in 2008 from the Arkansas Arts Council for a novel-in-progress.

Carry the Rock: Race, Football and the Soul of an American City was named a 2010 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. Most recently, he edited a collection called Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany.

Customer Reviews

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By 35-year Technology Consumer TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Non-fiction chronicles of a football team's journey through a season (whether at the high school, college or professional level) are a staple of American sports writing. The challenge for any writer trying to take on such a story is to provide a new way to illuminate what is essentially a sports writing genre.

Scheduled for release as America settles in for a new football season, Jay Jennings success in providing a unique perspective on a a basic story that's been told before. The team he chose for this book -the Tigers of Little Rock Central High School-- represent the legacy of the challenging history of racial integration in the United States.

Nominally the story of a season of high school football, Jennings weaves other threads throughout the book. Among these are the history of Little Rock itself, the challenges of integrating the schools there in the 1950s (and an unflinching look at the realities of this 50 years later), and modern issues that continued to shape the city (and the school)...especially how the paths of Interstate highways can mold the urban areas they pass through, for better or worse.

The football narrative is centered on the coaching staff, with the spotlight shining firmly on coach Bernie Cox as he steers the Tigers through 2007 season, his 35th with the team. The demands of time and myriad challenges facing the coaches (facilities, parents, academics, the foibles of teenagers, how to get 50 kids moving in the same direction for an away game...let alone getting them moving on the field in the same direction) are excellently laid out by Jennings.

Football fans looking for detailed descriptions of Xs and Os won't find them there.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By RB on October 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Carry the Rock" has a quiet power and is very different from typical sports books. First, the structure of the book is really smart -- it juxtaposes Little Rock history, politics, and educational issues with the struggles of the team during this historic year, fifty years after the Little Rock 9 became famous. The writing is clean, honest, and genuine. While the author never sticks his face in the way of the story, you can feel his compassion and sense how profoundly the year must have affected him, as well as the Central High Tigers.

The fact that Jennings can make school board politics and districts interesting attests to his skills as a writer. Most compelling, though, is his portrait of the coach, Bernie Cox. The coach is strict yet loving, and seemingly the perfect leader for Central High. Like the author, Cox possesses a modest dignity and understated wisdom. Cox doesn't so much "jump off the page" as seep through -- as does the team's heartbreaking season.

This book is the "Friday Night Lights" for a smarter reader: not as sensational, and there won't be a TV show, but Jenning's book is just as powerful. Anyone interested in sports, race, or the education of our kids will love this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Scott Schiefelbein VINE VOICE on October 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In the spirit of the awesome, unforgettable "Friday Night Lights," Jay Jennings has written "Carry the Rock," an examination of Little Rock, Arkansas and the juggernaut football program of Central High School.

This may not sound like a story of national interest, but Little Rock is a city that deserves attention for a lot more than Bill Clinton and the HBO gangland expose, "Bangin' in Little Rock." Little Rock is a touchstone city for the history of the American civil rights movement, for both good and ill. Jennings retells one of the most shocking tales of lynching in American history, an event that leaves lasting scars on the city and the South. But Jennings balances it with the proud history of Little Rock, both in terms of American political life (Bill Clinton is not the only famous Arkansan in American politics) and its cultural impact. It would shock many proud Northeastern elites to learn that Central High in Little Rock was for years considered to be among the top public high schools in the entire country. And this city was also the site of the infamous Little Rock Nine - nine African American teenagers who dared to break the color barrier and gain admission to the prestigious, segregated school in 1957.

Fifty years later, the legendary Central High football team is also trying to defend its state championship title. Unfortunately, despite the presence of a legendary coach on the sidelines and some really terrific kids, they just don't have the horses to justify their preseason ranking as #1 in the state. Jennings writes with compassion and clarity as he follows the Tigers through their season of triumphs and failures.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JG on January 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
An excellent book about Arkansas, race and football written by a local author coming back to the state. The narrative gives a good view of the state of the state, city and life in Little Rock in the 2000's. The main person in the story, the Little Rock Central football coach sounds like someone you would like your son to play sports for at some time in their life.

The story weaves together nicely the changes in Little Rock and Arkansas in race and sports in the last 50 years since the desegregation crisis.

For those interested in sports and the effect of society on them and in turn the effect on society on sports, it is a great read, I would commend it to you.
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