The first comprehensive, authoritative biography of American icon Arthur Ashe—the Jackie Robinson of men’s tennis—a pioneering athlete who, after breaking the color barrier, went on to become an influential civil rights activist and public intellectual.
For those who have long admired Ashe, this close look at his life offers even more evidence that he was more than a great player, he was an extraordinary person ... Arthur Ashe: A Life is among the best books about tennis I’ve ever read — it’s a deep, detailed, thoughtful chronicle of one of the country’s best and most important players. I wanted to hear more, though, about Ashe’s game and what sort of player he was on the court. And the author (whose previous books include Freedom Riders) is on thin ice when he suggests that Ashe was more popular among whites than blacks. Among blacks who love tennis, Ashe remains a god to this day ... In many ways, Ashe, more than Ali, is the spiritual father of Colin Kaepernick, the seminal athlete-activist of today. Kaepernick’s protest — both his kneeling and his public persona over these last two years — has been calm and dignified in a way Ashe would have respected. Ashe is the kind of man we can hope our children grow up to be like — worldly, smart, cool, thoughtful, politically engaged — which is why my parents made sure I got to meet him all those years ago.
Raymond Arsenault has created a posthumous paean to Arthur Ashe ... Arsenault has worked through interviews with those who knew Ashe, and also with Ashe’s own extensive personal writings, so that the man’s voice is heard again. This thorough account naturally will be of particular interest to sports fans ... Arsenault's book has the power to invade the hearts of those who did not experience the American Civil Rights movement directly.
Weighing in at 629 pages of text, Arthur Ashe: A Life is the kind of very-full-length biography that can break your nose if you doze off while reading it in bed. Unfortunately, you might. This is a book where more turns out to be less. Arsenault, a well-respected historian of the civil rights movement, exhaustively reconstructs Ashe’s life and does an impressively thorough job embedding Ashe’s activism in the larger context of his times. He is just as meticulous about Ashe’s tennis, dutifully recounting the results of just about every match he ever played ... Arsenault provides an authoritative view of his subject’s evolving thoughts about race, compromise and resistance, but with a few exceptions, he doesn’t really explore Ashe’s thoughts between the lines ... Arsenault has essentially written two books: an unenlightening rehash of a very good tennis career, and an insightful narrative of the evolution of a remarkable human being ... Arsenault often treats the two sides of Ashe’s life as if he were writing about two separate people ... The good news is, Ashe was a very interesting man, and Arsenault has sympathetically but comprehensively provided the receipts.