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Arshay Cooper Books In Order

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Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

Suga Water: A Memoir (2015)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Most Beautiful Thing (2020)Description / Buy at Amazon

Arshay Cooper
Arshay Cooper is a Benjamin Franklin award-winning author, a Rower, A Golden Oar recipient for his contributions to the rowing sport, and a motivational speaker. He’s also an activist, especially around the issues concerning accessibility for low-income families.

Growing up on Chicago’s Westside, he witnessed friends and family become products of their environment. He ended up joining, and later became captain of, the first African American high school rowing team at Manley High School in 1997. It was an experience that changed his life.

The team didn’t get along at first, but what helped them was being in the boat together, and pulling together. Being in the water put them in a place where they couldn’t hear the sound of bullets or sirens, which allowed them to shape a different version for themselves, of what and who they could become.

Arshay found shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”, “Cosby”, “Family Matters”, and “A Different World” to be very inspirational as they allowed him to see successful families, something he didn’t get to see very much. They lived these whole different lives because they’re black and young. They were like his church service, giving him much needed hope. He tuned in every single day.

He dedicated two years of his life to AmeriCorps, focusing on inclusion and diversity, and shortly after that, he went to Le Cordon Bleu, becoming a personal chef for professional athletes and events.

After spending a few years working in food service, he returned to his one true passion, working with young people. Arshay coached rowing at the Chicago Urban Youth Rowing Club and worked as the youth program guidance counselor for the Victory Outreach’s Midwest/Gulf Coast region. He’s also started many rowing programs for low-income youth all across the country, any place where there’s even a puddle of water, so that other youngsters can experience the profound change that can happen out on the water.

In 2015, he self-published his memoir, originally titled “Suga Water”, which is now the basis for a documentary that was narrated by Common and executive produced by Dwayne Wade, Grant Hill, and directed by Mary Mazzio titled “A Most Beautiful Thing”. He speaks at events and venues all over the place, from colleges to prisons, to professional sports teams. He also appears on various media outlets.

Arshay finds that he couldn’t write by himself because he’d get onto his phone or start falling asleep. He just gets too distracted for that. So when writing his memoir, he spent time writing at Ft. Greene Park. He’d write after reading Antwone Fisher’s “Finding Fish” or something by James Baldwin, or “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, where he’s able to feel the pain and struggle of other young people that grew up like him.

He always writes at a cafe after he speaks to an auditorium filled with young black women and men. Hearing their hopes and dreams, their questions, just gets him all fired up, the visions, creativity, heartache, and dreams. Each time he’s at a school, he sees those tears and the sense of urgency. His writing process really happens after he speaks to young folks.

“A Most Beautiful Thing” is a non-fiction book that was released in the year 2020. The moving true story about a group of young men growing up on the West side of Chicago that form the first all-Black high school rowing team in the entire nation, and by doing so transform the sport, as well as themselves.

Arshay Cooper, having grown up on Chicago’s Westside during the nineties, knows the tougher side of life. The street corners are filled with gangs, the halls of his apartment are haunted by the drug addicts he calls “zombies” with strung out arms, clutching at him while he passes them. His mom is a recovering addict, and his three sibling sleep in a single room apartment, a tiny infantry against the war zone down on the street below.

He keeps to himself, preferring to write his poetry about the girl he’s got a crush on, and spends his school days in the home-ec kitchen dreaming about becoming a chef. And one day while walking out of school he notices this boat in the school’s lunchroom, and the poster which reads “Join the Crew Team”.

Arshay, not having any idea what the sport of crew even is, decides to take a chance. This choice to join up is one that’s going to forever change his entire life, and those of his teammates. While he and his teammates start coming together to learn how to row, many never having been in the water, the sport takes them from the mean streets in Chicago, and off to the hallowed halls of the Ivy League. However he and the team face adversity at each turn. From gang violence, to racism, and a sport that’s never even seen anybody like them before.

This is the inspiring true tale about the most unlikely group of brothers that form a family, and is forever going to change a sport and their own lives for the better.

You can feel Arshay’s passion for the sport of rowing in his explanations of the mechanics and exactly how the sport makes him feel while he is doing it. Even when he talks about the negative parts of his life, Arshay never gets negative. This is a wonderful and devastating, inspirational yet heartbreaking read. You don’t have to be a rower in order to see the book’s full power, with the amount of challenges these rowers had to face on a daily basis just to survive. And you truly do care and root for everybody in the book.

Readers found themselves becoming immediately captivated, with Arshay’s writing evoking the emotional angst of the teens that grow up in the inner city in Chicago. The book is a triumphant story of overcoming the odds, with the sport of rowing as a catalyst to his and his crew’s salvation. This is spirited and memorable. A wholly engrossing sports memoir yet still relevant to any conversation on race and privilege.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Arshay Cooper

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