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This Love Is Not For Cowards: Salvation and Soccer in Ciudad Juárez Hardcover – March 1, 2012
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“[I]n this clear-eyed and humane book Powell has succeeded in introducing his readers to a truth behind the grim and monotonous headlines.” ―Boston Globe
“Terrific. Fantastic. A hell of a book. In the best tradition of literary journalism, Robert Andrew Powell finds the story we'd missed in our own backyard, using the love of soccer to reveal the humanity that survives in hyper-violent Ciudad Juárez. This is the best sports non-fiction I've read in a long, long time.” ―Grant Wahl, New York Times bestselling author of The Beckham Experiment
“To call This Love Is Not For Cowards a sports book does it an injustice. Powell tackles a subject that actually should matter to Americans: The bloody breakdown of civic life just over the U.S. border -- and the ways it can corrode even the most detached observer's soul. Daring, honest and wielding a pitch-perfect ear, he uses soccer to chart Juarez's ultra-violent anarchy the way the best correspondents chronicle war. He leaps into the devil's playground -- and reports the hell out of it.” ―S.L. Price, senior writer, Sports Illustrated
“The most dangerous game is believing in life. Robert Andrew Powell takes us into the most murderous city in the world, where a soccer team and its fans teach us how to live and why. This book will save your life by giving you life.” ―Charles Bowden, author of Murder City
“Candid . . . Unsentimental and deeply humane.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“[A]n edgy, anecdotal view of a place where ‘Murder is effectively legal'… Powell captures surreal feelings of beauty and desolation, exuberance and danger. Though the Indios fail and fail big, Powell succeeds brilliantly . . . An eye-opening and unforgettable account of a part of the world that, for all its notoriety, is effectively invisible.” ―Booklist (starred review)
“Much like the soccer classic The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss, Powell's work explores not only the connection between an athletic team and its fans but also one city and one community's ability to simultaneously face conditions that destroy hope and try to restore faith, and in doing so he has written not only a great sports book but also a powerful treatise on civics and human nature.” ―Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Robert Andrew Powell is the author of "We Own This Game" (Grove/Atlantic, 2003), a story of race, politics and football in Miami. The book was excerpted in Sports Illustrated; the magazine later named it one of the Best Books of 2003. His journalism has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, Play, Slate, Mother Jones, Inc., 5280, Sports Illustrated, Runner's World, the Kansas City Star, on public radio's "This American Life with Ira Glass," and in the "Best American Sports Writing" anthology. He also produced a documentary film, "Year of the Bull," which first aired on Showtime. He has won a James Beard Award for his food writing and twice been a finalist for the Livingston Award. He lives in Miami.
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Top customer reviews
As I expected, this book does follow the Juarez soccer team for a season. The author does introduce some players, describe some soccer action, and for me most interestingly, provides the reader with insights to what goes on behind the scenes of a professional team that the casual fans does not usually get to experience, such as locker room speeches, team dinners, and practices. It is no secret that the team is struggling and is clearly failing. However, this is not the focus of the book. The author spends just as much time describing the city of Juarez and the adverse living conditions there...murders, drug trade, crime, lack of jobs. This is where the book is not so much a "sports" book, but can be considered more of a cultural/sociological book.
The author describes the tremendous level of adversity the citizens of Juarez are living with -- their resiliency to live "normal" lives. One of which is the importance of the soccer team and supporting the soccer team, even though the team is dismal. Over time, the author comes to learn that each individual finds a way to survive, be it clinging to dreams they know will never come true, drugs, moving away, or simply becoming desensitized to it all. Through the journey, the author synthesizes well the slow death of the team, living in the heart of this dangerous city, and his personal struggle to find a way within himself to survive the harsh, dangerous, adverse conditions without losing who he is.
In general, I found the book flowed well and was quick to read. I did find myself wanting to get to the last page, because I needed to know how the story turned out in the end.
The team becomes a metaphor for the City itself, bursting onto the scene then spiraling downward in a series of losses that guarantees relegation back to the minor leagues. The City of Juarez follows a similar pattern from an economic powerhouse with no unemployment to a City seemingly going through death throes. Or is it? As the book illustrates, people still go out to restaurants and bars, celebrate children's birthday at McDonalds, fall in love/get married, jog, walk their dogs, and support their soccer team to the end. By reading this book, we find that people love their soccer team and their city despite the pervasiveness of death.
We see the city through his eyes as someone who chose to live there, renting an apartment and fully engaging in daily life. Our media paints a picture of Juarez as a town that shuts completely down at night with residents in bunker mode for fear of being shot. And while some of that occurs, we still see people living their lives and that is the strength of the book.
Powell does provide a good background of the drug war and who the major players are in the City. He touches upon some of the more shocking headlines such as the student massacre, the murder of American consulate employees, and the car bombs. His chapter about the women murders is especially powerful in helping the reader understand some of the debate over the origin of killings. But in the end, the book is about how this soccer team, the Indios, provide a diversion for the City in desperate need for something good. You'll meet interesting people and players and hopefully get a sense that not all is doom and gloom in Juarez. I highly recommend this book whether or not you are a soccer fan.
What has soccer to do with all the dead bodies? Don't know that it's really spelled out in the book but I found it totally ironic that the author parties with the soccer supporters who are doing the very illegal drugs that are responsible for the brutal murders and the downfall of the city.
Maybe soccer, as much as I love it, creates artificial enemies and distracts us from things that are way more important to maintain a safe society. Has "football" been good for Mexico?
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Having been in Juarez recently and having also read that life there has...Read more