WHO'S AFRAID OF A LARGE BLACK MAN?
Don't let the cheeky title, the byline or the picture on the cover fool you: this is a serious book that's not about Charles Barkley. Instead, this work, edited by the Washington Post and ESPN's Wilbon, is a candid collection of 13 interviews by Barkley with prominent Americans like Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Tiger Woods, Morgan Freeman and comedian George Lopez on the oft-avoided subject of race. Barkley, well known for outspokenness as a player and an on-air commentator, challenges his interviewees to deal with this delicate issue head on. Barkley wisely keeps his opinions brief, letting his dynamic counterparts take center stage. In doing so he gets these stars to open up on how American society fares on such topics as racism, race relations, welfare reform, economic and social discrimination and creating opportunities for minorities. Mixed in with the bigger name celebs and politicians are lesser-known folk, such as Robert Johnson (the NBA's first black owner), the Children's Defense Fund's Miriam Wright Edelman (who laments that there are "580,000 black men in prison compared to about 45,000 who graduate from college each year") and Rabbi Steven Leder. For all the different backgrounds and opinions, all the participants believe the racial divide in America can only be bridged with a combination of reforms to our educational, medical and economic practices and a strong self-evaluation by the African-American community. Everyone also agrees that a core group of strong black leaders must emerge for these changes to be enacted. Surprisingly, this eye-opening book might point to Barkley as just such a leader. (Apr. 5)