Rings: On the Life and Family of a Southern Fighter

Randolph Bates, Author
Randolph Bates, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $25 (421p) ISBN 978-0-374-25047-8
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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Born in 1909 a black Baptist minister's son, Collis Phillips grew up shining shoes and running bootlegged whiskey but escaped the ghetto as a prizefighter in New Orleans. When Bates, who teaches writing at Harvard, first met Phillips in 1979, the boxer turned trainer had a paralyzed leg, having been shot by his daughter during a family dispute. One of Phillips's sons had committed suicide; another son, also a champion boxer, was serving a life sentence in a maximum-security prison for selling a small amount of heroin to an undercover agent. In a powerful, moving chronicle of triumph over despair, the author, an amateur boxer, traces several generations of the Phillips family from Collis's great-grandfather, a white planter, to the current generation's struggle to break out of a cycle of poverty, crime and racism. Bates, who is white, won the trust of the family and functions as both participant and observer. He makes readers grasp the socioeconomic conditions that pulverize black dreams and identity. (May)
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