Review Detail

Young Adult Nonfiction 103
Interesting Baseball History
Overall rating 
 
4.5
Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
4.0
Maraniss, whose Strong Inside covered Black basketball player Perry Wallace, turns his incredible research skills the the story of Glenn Burke. While it is fascinating and noteworthy that Burke is documented as having delivered the first high five as we know it today, his story is important for a variety of other reasons. Drawing on an impressive array of books and articles, interviews, and Burke's own autobiography, written with Eric Sherman, Out at Home, Maraniss paints a vivid portrait not only of the first openly gay major league baseball player, but the times in which he lived.

Starting with Burke's childhood in the Bay Area, we see how Burke's life was a constant mixture of success (being on television and a record album) and challenges (his father was abusive and then absent). He discovered athletics early on, and played throughout his school years. College was more challenging, since academics weren't all that interesting to him, and college sports participation rely on success in academics. Burke's ball skills, however, were so phenomenal that the Los Angeles Dodgers recruited him for their farm team when he was just very young. He was an enthusiastic player, and well liked by his teammates, and was soon moved to the main team. We see the ups and downs of being involved in a professional ball team, and there is plenty of baseball described that I didn't completely understand.

What this book does particularly well is to describe what was going on in Burke's life against the background of what was occurring in the world at large. While Burke was just one of many Black ballplayers in the 1970s, there was still a lot of racial prejudices with which he had to deal. While there were other players who were helpful, like Dusty Baker, there were still a lot of issues. It's not surprising, since we're still seeing issues with racism in sports today.
Good Points
The bigger issue, of course, is that fact that Burke was gay. The book portrays him as not quite knowing what to do with this information himself at first, which seems very accurate. The perception about and treatment of gay people in the 1970s, which somewhat better than it was in the 1950s, was still very problematic. I can remember a teacher in my high school being fired in the early 1980s just under the suspicion of being gay, and it's easy to forget how near in time the early 80s were to the Stonewall Riots. Maraniss does a great job of detailing incidents which occurred in Burke's life and showing how they were colored by the events going on in the world at the time. I had forgotten how wide spread Anita Bryant's vitriol was.

Despite his athletic prowess, Burke's struggles in dealing with how being Black and gay affected him caused him to have problems in his life. The Dodgers offered him a bonus if he would get married to a woman so that he could escape the suspicion of being gay, and he had odd relationships with Tommy Lasorda, whose own son was gay, something the older Lasorda denied, as well as Billy Martin. I know so little about baseball that I started this book thinking the Dodgers were based in Brooklyn (they moved in 1958), but even I remember that Billy Martin was kind of a jerk. All of these factors played into Burke eventually leaving baseball, and then finding it hard to make a living.

A lot of the book discusses the San Francisco gay scene in the Castro district in the early 80s, and the advent of the AIDS virus. What a devastating thing for that community, and what unfortunate timing for Burke to have finally found a community where he felt at home. Even though I was a teenager at the time, I had forgotten how badly people with AIDS were treated, and the fear in which they were held. I found this portion of the book every bit as illuminative as the descriptions of Burke's ball career.

This was an incredibly all inclusive coverage of Burke's life, and it was heartbreaking. Maraniss does a good job at being circumspect about incidents, so this would be okay for upper middle grade readers, but the length of the book, as well as the emotionally devastating contents, might make it more suited for high school ones. Sex is mentioned, although not in detail, and there is also drug and alcohol use portrayed.

The chapter notes, list of resources, and gay rights timeline are all very useful, and the number of interviews the author did is impressive. While I normally like to see books about the Black experience or gay issues written by #OwnVoices authors, the author is very thorough in documenting occurrences, sincere in wanting to shed light on how people were mistreated, and seems to have had the manuscript checked by several readers, so I hope that the portrayals are acceptable. Singled Out is certainly an important book on topics that are timely and much needed.
Report this review Was this review helpful to you? 0 0

Comments

Already have an account? or Create an account
Powered by JReviews

Latest Book Listings Added

Kingdom of Ink and Paper (The Betwixt and Between Chronicles Book 1)
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Every book you’ve ever read. Every story you’ve ever ...
The First Holidays
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Lila Weston is a pro at keeping secrets, but this...
Wings of Ebony (Wings of Ebony, #1)
 
4.7
 
0.0 (0)
In this riveting, keenly emotional debut fantasy, a Black teen...
You Say It First
 
3.3
 
0.0 (0)
One conversation can change everything. Meg has her entire...
My High School Royal Boyfriend
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
ALEX A tragedy at Langley Estate puts my family...
The Forgotten World (The World Apart Series Book 3)
 
5.0 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
Clark thought he knew what grief was. Addie thought...
Tales from the Hinterland
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
A gorgeously illustrated collection of twelve “lush and deliciously...
Sisters of Shadow and Light
 
3.7
 
0.0 (0)
From the acclaimed author of Defy, Sara B. Larson,...
In the Penalty Box
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Willow Figure skating was supposed to be my whole...
Unchosen
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Katharyn Blair crafts a fiercely feminist fantasy with a horrifying...
Miracle Girl
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Leanne Strong hates June eighth even though it's supposed to...
The Memory Thief  (Thirteen Witches #1)
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Twelve-year-old Rosie Singer’s mom is missing whatever it is that...
Singled Out: The True Story of Glenn Burke
 
4.5
 
0.0 (0)
On October 2nd, 1977, Glenn Burke, outfielder for the Los...
The Elephant in the Room
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
It's been almost a year since Sila's mother traveled halfway...
Alone in the Woods
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Jocelyn and Alex have always been best friends...until they aren't....
Disaster Days
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Hannah Steele loves living on Pelling, a tiny island near...

Latest Member Reviews

The Night Circus
 
4.3
"I couldn’t begin to express how much I adore this book. This book, magically, soothed my temper and let me..."
Wings of Ebony (Wings of Ebony, #1)
 
4.7
"WINGS OF EBONY is a beautifully crafted YA fantasy. A year has passed since Rue's life was irrevocably changed. Her..."
The Forgotten World (The World Apart Series Book 3)
 
5.0
"I don't know how this series keeps getting better, but it does. This third book is just... so much happens..."
The Tempest Sea
 
5.0
"This book... oof. It hurt. But if you know me at all, you know my favorite books are the kind..."
The Fractured Empire
 
5.0
"This book grabbed me from the very beginning, throwing me into this beautifully-crafted, intriguing new world. The plot is fast-paced..."
The Gilded Ones (Deathless #1)
 
4.3
"THE GILDED ONES by Namina Forna is a YA fantasy novel and the first book in the Deathless series. The..."
Unchosen
 
5.0
"UNCHOSEN is a fantastic and completely captivating YA apocalyptic fantasy, filled with feminism, friendship, sisterhood, and romance. Charlotte is the..."
The Memory Thief  (Thirteen Witches #1)
 
5.0
"Rosie has always taken care of herself and her mother in their house overlooking the coast of Maine. Her mother..."
Singled Out: The True Story of Glenn Burke
 
4.5
"Maraniss, whose Strong Inside covered Black basketball player Perry Wallace, turns his incredible research skills the the story of Glenn..."
The Elephant in the Room
 
5.0
"Sila's family has been happy in Oregon, even though her father, who is a mechanical engineer, has to work as..."
Alone in the Woods
 
5.0
"Jocelyn always looks forward to the vacation in a cabin that she and her friend Alex's family take every year...."
Disaster Days
 
5.0
"Hannah doesn't understand why her parents are SO overprotective, even though she occasionally has a hard time dealing with her..."
We Dream of Space
 
4.0
"Bird, her twin brother Fitch, and their older brother Chase are all doing the best they can in 1986 Park,..."
Wild River
 
5.0
"Daniel isn't all that sure why he was chosen to go on an outdoor experience trip with four other students..."
In the Penalty Box
 
4.0
"IN THE PENALTY BOX is a cute YA contemporary hockey romance. Willow is a figure skater heading for the Olympics,..."
The Afterlife of the Party (Afterlife, #1)
 
4.7
"THE AFTERLIFE OF THE PARTY is a YA vampire book for anyone who doesn't want to make out with the..."
The Alcazar (The Cerulean, #2)
 
3.0
"THE ALCAZAR wraps up an intriguing YA fantasy duology. The book continues to follow four main characters in alternating points-of-view,..."
Super Fake Love Song
 
4.0
"Super Fake Love Song is about Sunny Dae, a Korean American teenager who is a mega-nerd trying to survive at..."
Hot British Boyfriend
 
4.3
"Ellie lives in Washington D.C. and attends an elite school, even though the tuition is a stretch for her single..."
Charlie Thorne and the Lost City (Charlie Thorne #2)
 
5.0
"After her adventures in Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation, Charlie is hiding out in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador,..."