A Most Beautiful Thing

The True Story of the First All-Black High School Rowing Team

Arshay Cooper

A Most Beautiful Thing book jacket

A Most Beautiful Thing is the moving true story of a group of young men growing up on Chicago’s West side who form the first all-black high school rowing team in the nation, and in doing so not only transform a sport, but their lives.

Growing up on Chicago’s Westside in the 1990s, Arshay Cooper knows the harder side of life. The street corners are full of gangs, and the hallways of his apartment complex are haunted by junkies. His mother is a recovering addict, and his three siblings all sleep in a one-bedroom apartment, a small infantry against the war zone on the street below.

Arshay keeps to himself, preferring to write poetry about the girl he has a crush on, and spends his school days in the home-ec kitchen dreaming of becoming a chef. Then one day he notices a long, sleek white boat in the school lunchroom, and a join the crew team poster.

Having no idea what crew is, Arshay takes a chance. This decision to join is one that will forever change his life as well as those of his fellow teammates. As Arshay and his teammates come together to learn how to row, the sport takes them from the mean streets of Chicago to the hallowed halls of the Ivy League. But they face adversity at every turn, from racism, gang violence, and a sport that has never seen anyone like them before.

Now a documentary

Narrated by Common