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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Carry On by Lisa Fenn

Carry On by Lisa Fenn
Published by Harper Wave ISBN 978-0062427830
Hardcover, $25.99, 256 pages

Every once in a while, I read a book that affects me so deeply, when I finish the book I feel the need to run and tell everyone I see "You must read this book!" Lisa Fenn's Carry On is one such book.

Fenn grew up in Cleveland, and became a producer for ESPN. On a visit home, her father showed her a newspaper story about two high school wrestlers from a high school in a poor section of the city. One of the young men was blind, the other had lost his legs in a tragic train accident.

She became intrigued, and convinced her boss at ESPN to film a short documentary piece on the young men by giving him a visual- "The one who cannot walk being carried by the one who cannot see." What came out of that piece changed Fenn's life forever.

Fenn got to know the young men- Dartanyon, a big guy who got shuffled from place to place, who always carried a duffel bag of his belongings with him because he didn't know where he would be sleeping that night, and Leroy, who lost his legs in a train accident when he was eleven and was living with his grandmother.

Both young men grew up in poverty in addition to their physical challenges. They became best friends. Dartanyon would literally carry Leroy on his back into wrestling matches, and he would frequently be found at Leroy's grandmother's home where he got a decent meal.

Their bond was unbreakable, and it took Fenn a long time to break through the defenses they had to get them to open up to her. They were suspicious of Fenn, of her motives for doing the documentary. She spent many hours watching them play video games in Leroy's grandmother's basement, eventually gaining their trust.

The resulting documentary was so moving that many viewers responded by asking how they could help these courageous young men. Fenn helped set up a fund for the young men to get them into colleges, a dream they couldn't even begin to comprehend.

She found people willing to help and through sheer force of will she got them to take the SATs and both of them were able to go to college. But Dartanyon and Leroy were completely unprepared for college life, and it became Fenn's full-time job to keep these guys on track.

Carry On is a book that looks at the bigger problem of  race, privilege, class and poverty through the prism of these two young men. For everyone who says, why can't people just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and succeed, the complications of that type of thinking is in here.

Fenn is a woman of faith, and I enjoyed that aspect of the book. She believed that she couldn't just walk away from these young men, that she could make a difference even when most people would give up.

Carry On will appeal to anyone who loves a good story about sports and the difference we can make in other people's lives. I cried throughout the book several times, and it reminded me of  Jeff Hobbs' brilliant book, The Life and Tragic Death of Robert Peace. Both books do a fantastic job of showing us a way of life most of us are unfamiliar with.

If you are the kind of person who only reads one book a year, make it Carry On. I would love to see this become a book read in high schools, colleges and in city reads program. It is the best non-fiction book I have read this year, hands-down.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Lisa Fenn's tour. The rest of Lisa's stops are here:

Tour Stops

Tuesday, August 16th: Emerald City Book Review
Thursday, August 18th: Becklist
Friday, August 19th: Dreaming Big
Monday, August 22nd: Mother’s Circle
Tuesday, August 23rd: bookchickdi
Wednesday, August 24th: Tina Says…
Thursday, August 25th: Literary Quicksand
Monday, August 29th: Helen’s Book Blog
Tuesday, August 30th: Cait’s Cozy Corner
Wednesday, August 31st: Book by Book
Thursday, September 1st: Many Hats
Wednesday, September 7th: Back Porchervations
Thursday, September 8th: Rebecca Radish
Monday, September 12th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, September 13th: The Paperback Pilgrim
Monday, September 19th: Reading is My Super Power


  1. I agree, this book deserves to be widely read. It brings up many important questions and is also just a compelling human story.

  2. I'm not a fan of sports but I love stories like this and your enthusiasm for the book. Going to find a copy.

  3. Oh my, that sounds like such a powerful story. I've got to get my hands on this book.

  4. There is so much about this book to love. I want to hand it to person after person and insist that each of them read it immediately.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!