Today is a very exciting day in The Paperback Pilgrim history as today is the day I post my first TLC Book Tours review! For those unfamiliar with TLC Book Tours the website is a service providing an online promotional tool for authors to use in order to create buzz about upcoming books. This time around, TLC Book Tours has partnered with Lisa Fenn, a former ESPN producer, in order to generate buzz about Carry On, Fenn’s memoir about a specific feature she produced, being published on August 18, 2016. Want to know what I thought of the memoir being compared to The Blind Side and Friday Night Lights? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.
Lisa Fenn produced human-interest features for ESPN for over a decade, but one particular story came into her life and never left. After seeing a newspaper image of two young wrestlers from one of Cleveland’s tougher public high schools, Lisa followed a hunch and flew back to her hometown to meet the boys that very day. What she found caused her spirit both to sink and to soar.
Leroy Sutton, who lost his legs in a childhood train accident, could often be found riding on the back of Dartanyon Crockett, who was legally blind and had no permanent place to call home. Initially drawn together by their handicaps, the boys soon developed a brother-like bond. When one wrestled, the other sat on the edge of the mat, and their cheerful friendship was a source of inspiration throughout the halls of their high school.
As Lisa filmed her feature about this remarkable friendship for ESPN, she grew to understand the suffering Leroy and Dartanyon had endured, and she fought for their trust and their confidence. The three formed a surprising and meaningful connection—and once the television story ended, Lisa realized she couldn’t just walk away.
Though Leroy’s and Dartanyon’s futures were limited by abject poverty, Lisa resolved to give them the chance she knew they deserved. She worked tirelessly to see them through school and athletic pursuits, broken hearts, phantom limbs, and the bewildering obstacles that, at every turn, tested their individual strengths even while strengthening the bonds between them.
Now this usually isn’t something I include in my reviews, but Lisa Fenn deserves to have her accomplishments posted everywhere! Seriously, she’s actually killing the game called life.
A three-time winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award and a six-time Emmy Award—winning feature producer with ESPN for thirteen years, Fenn interviewed every big name in sports. Today she is a sought-after public presenter, speaking on leadership, poverty, and transracial adoption, in addition to her Christian faith and its relevance in both her media career and her daily life. Lisa received her BA in communications from Cornell University. Her work has been featured on ESPN,Good Morning America, and World News Tonight – side note, can I please have her career – She continues to produce sports stories and write about the redemptive power of love. Lisa resides in Boston with her husband and two young children.
If you’re interested in what Lisa is up to, follow her on Facebook.
Though the book is referred to as a The Blind Side meets Friday Night Lights, and the theme of sports was woven throughout the foundation of the novel, it didn’t focus enough on sports for my liking. I definitely went in thinking that the plot would fall more to the sports side of the memoir spectrum and instead was greeted, not badly may I add, by a story about relationships. While I did enjoy exploring the relationship of Leroy and Dartanyon, and the boys and Fenn, I felt I finished the memoir with more questions than answers on the ‘sport fact’ side of things.
The notion of poverty, on the other hand, played a huge roll in setting up the obstacles that these two athletes had to face, and I felt that Fenn explored this topic beautifully. From finding out that Leroy couldn’t make physical therapy appointments because there wasn’t enough gas in the family vehicle, to finding out that neither boy was able to understand the need to budget money to their different needs, it made me appreciate what I had personally, while also admiring what Fenn was able to give the two boys by the end of the memoir.
Something that I was surprised Fenn included in the memoir was the topic of racism and how it was an extension of her own family life. Fenn’s father, who is revealed in the memoir to be the person who tipped off Fenn to the story of Leroy and Dartanyon, is, in certain sections of the memoir, shown to be a bit of a racist. While Fenn attributes this part of her father’s life to the generation in which he lived, this idea is further developed when Fenn and her husband chose to adopt a baby of colour. In the end, Fenn’s father goes through a bit of a growth period, so to speak, but I found it bold of Fenn to include the section in the memoir.
A topic that Fenn touched on in the memoir that I found thought-provoking was that of white privilege. Through out the first half of the memoir the idea of white privilege was there, and yet the words were used about 150 pages in when Fenn was questioning why it was so hard for those of African-American decent in East Cleveland to do and say things that came easily to those of Caucasian decent in the same social, political or economic structures. It was then interesting to see Fenn’s thought process on why certain individuals struggle while others excel, and how by having just one person in your life that cares enough can change the ‘set’ outcome of ones life.
When I finished this memoir I found that watching the ESPN special – appropriately entitled Carry On – made me have a deeper appreciation for the story of these two incredible athletes. It also made me recognize how much work that Fenn put into the story that wasn’t shown in the 13 minute special, and that all three of these individuals have offered more to their passions than they are given credit for.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.