"Becoming Muhammad Ali" by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander

Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander

‘Before he was Muhammad Ali, he was Cassius Clay’

Where I'm From

I am from black Cadillacs
from plastic-covered sofas
in tiny pink houses.
I am from the one bathroom
we all shared
and the living room
you stayed out of.

I am from Friday fried fish
and chocolate birthday cakes
from Levy Brothers’ slacks
and shiny white shoes,
from Cash and Bird,
from storytellers
and good looks,
from don’t say you can’t
till you try…(28-29)
 
We may know who Mohammad Ali is, right? But do we REALLY know who he was and how he became The Greatest? With their collaborative and combined voices, talents, and perspectives, James Patterson, the prolific author of hundreds of novels, and Kwame Alexander, best known for his award-winning novels in verse, we learn the well-researched, imagined life of young Cassius Clay before he was known around the world.

Growing up in segregated Louisville, Kentucky in the 1940’s/1950’s Cassius had a loving family and good friends. And he also faced struggles with school and rampant racism. We get to also discover that he learned card tricks from his grandfather, and enjoyed riding his bike all over Louisville. We also find out that it is after his bike gets stolen that he takes up boxing to fend off bullies.
With the voice and perspective of his friend Lucky helping thread the pieces of the story of Cassius Clay’s early years, this biographical novel is an informative and delightful window and mirror into the challenges and opportunities of growing up.
 
I Was Thirteen
 
when I lost
my first fight
and my first girl
to my best friend.
 
When Teenie told me
that she chose Riney
‘cause I was married
to my boxing gloves
and the ring.
 
When I got real serious
about the sweet science,
trained and fought
like a madman
 
When I decided
that one day
I was gonna become
the heavyweight champion
of the world
 
When my daddy
showed us
a gruesome magazine photograph
of a twelve-year-old faceless boy
who was visiting family
in Mississippi
for the summer
when he was shot in the head,
drowned in the river,
and killed
for maybe whistling
at a white woman.
 
When I got to see
Emmett Till
and the face
of America (214-215)
 
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