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Pretend the Ball Is Named Jim Crow by Dorian Hairston Published: 6th February 2024

Pretend the Ball Is Named Jim Crow by Dorian Hairston Published: 6th February 2024

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Joshua "Josh" Gibson (1911-1947) is a baseball legend - one of the greatest power hitters in the Negro Leagues, and in all of baseball history. At the height of his career, this trailblazing athlete suffered grueling physical ailments, lost his young wife who died giving birth to their twins, and endured years of Jim Crow-era segregation and discrimination - all the while breaking records on the ball field.

Dorian Hairston's debut poetry collection explores the Black American experience through the lens of Gibson's life and seventeen-year baseball career, which culminated in his posthumous election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. Hairston brilliantly reconstructs the personas of Gibson and others in his orbit whose encounters with white supremacy interweave with the inevitability of losing loved ones.

By alternating between the perspectives of Gibson, members of his family, and contemporary Black baseball players, Hairston captures the complexity and the pain of living under the oppressive weight of grief and racial discrimination. Emotive, prescient, and absorbing, these powerful poems address social change, culture, family, race, death, and oppression-while honoring and giving voice to Gibson and a voiceless generation of African Americans.

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