• A Most Beautiful Thing

  • The True Story of America's First All-Black High School Rowing Team
  • By: Arshay Cooper
  • Narrated by: Adam Lazarre-White
  • Length: 8 hrs and 43 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (504 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"Narrator Adam Lazarre-White conveys Cooper's youth and aspirations in a rich, steady voice that suggests emotional authenticity and humor." (AudioFile Magazine)

Now a documentary narrated by Common, produced by Grant Hill, Dwyane Wade, and 9th Wonder, from filmmaker Mary Mazzio

The moving true story of a group of young men growing up on Chicago's West side who form the first all-Black high school rowing team in the nation, and in doing so not only transform a sport, but their lives.

Growing up on Chicago’s Westside in the 90s, Arshay Cooper knows the harder side of life. The street corners are full of gangs, the hallways of his apartment complex are haunted by drug addicts he calls “zombies” with strung out arms, clutching at him as he passes by. His mother is a recovering addict, and his three siblings all sleep in a one room apartment, a small infantry against the war zone on the street below.

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

Having no idea what the sport of crew is, Arshay decides to take a chance. This decision to join is one that will forever change his life, and those of his fellow teammates. As Arshay and his teammates begin to come together to learn how to row - many never having been in water before - the sport takes them from the mean streets of Chicago, to the hallowed halls of the Ivy League. But Arshay and his teammates face adversity at every turn, from racism, gang violence, and a sport that has never seen anyone like them before.

A Most Beautiful Thing is the inspiring true story about the most unlikely band of brothers that form a family, and forever change a sport and their lives for the better.

A Macmillan Audio production from Flatiron Books

"I was immediately captivated. Arshay's writing evoked the emotional angst of teens growing up in the inner city of Chicago..I wholeheartedly recommend Arshay's book and look forward to his future projects." (Ron Stallworth, number-one New York Times best-selling author of Black Klansman)

"This is the story of rising from the ashes stronger, faster, and focused - not in spite of the circumstances of birth but because of them. Arshay’s refusal to let his life story be written for him is a testament to the resilience and beauty of the human spirit, and his eagerness to succeed, on the water and in life, is an inspiration." (Elizabeth Gilbert, New York Times best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic)

©2020 Arshay Cooper (P)2020 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

"Narrator Adam Lazarre-White conveys Cooper's youth and aspirations in a rich, steady voice that suggests emotional authenticity and humor." (AudioFile magazine)

What listeners say about A Most Beautiful Thing

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Maureen Morrison

It’s been a while since a book made me sob while reading, the way this one did. I listened to it slowly in an attempt to make it last. It’s a great book for anyone, and I’ll be giving it as as gifts frequently.

3 people found this helpful

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The Book that demands reading & passing on to all ages willing to listen!

I thought this was a poor choice for Book Club, we were a group from a tennis club not a rowing club !
The beginning set the stage , gradually it filled with a a cast of characters that I sorted out , creating a setting in the most dangerous part of the west side, that couldn’t possibly deliver anything but gang violence.
It is more than a good story, it proved that Black Lives Matter and cooperation , courage and respect can change All Lives.

1 person found this helpful

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Inspirational

A really great, true story. It shows there is still hope even in seemingly hopeless circumstances. And it tells us that one man or woman can change lives and inspire many.

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Exceptional book

Great book with an excellent story. I really enjoyed listening to it. This is a must read.

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Wonderful and Inspiring

I love true stories about average humans rising above incredible hardship to succeed and help others. Arshay is an amazing human. I wish him all the best that life has to offer. It seems he has gotten them already. May he continue to be blessed for all his life's choices and the sharing of his wisdom with others.

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Warmed my heart from start to finish 😍

Compelling story.
Warmed my heart from start to finish 😍
Extra meaningful as a former competitive rower ❤

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Incredible story

Just read it - amazing in so many ways. Inspiring, thought provoking, enriching, and so much more. Thank you Arshay Cooper for sharing your story with the world!

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Excellent read to learn about diversity, inclusion and belonging

Half way through the audiobook I ordered the hard copy, so that I can read and dwell and re-read parts of this book. I got great insights into how different upbringing shapes us for life, that I can share with others who do not understand how differently people are raised. I have a book group that is reading this book this month and I plan to have others read it as well, then discuss. Some of us have already been moved to action.

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Horrible Flat Narration

An amazingly interesting story made flat and unlistenable by the reader. The flat affect made angry, exciting competition into a monotonous yawnfest. Just go to the water.

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Inspirational, sobering, insightful

This is a compelling story about how the right influences, support and guidance can make all the difference for young people, particularly those that face bleak prospects otherwise. It's about race in America as much as it is about rowing. Highly recommended, especially for younger audiences seeking motivation.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 05-10-22

inspirational

Listened to this in 3 days. An incredible story, should be on the reading list for all young people.

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  • Hugs
  • 01-11-21

Brilliant book

I really enjoyed this book, it had been recommended to me and I’m so glad it was. As someone who rows on an erg it was inspiring, especially seeing what they had to overcome and endure. Well worth a read or listen.

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  • O H
  • 01-07-21

Moving story

An excellent performance by Adam Lazarre White! He truly brought this beautiful story to life. As a rower, I am truly inspired by this wonderful tale. The true transformative power of rowing cannot be denied. A must listen / read for any rowing fan.