Born in Somerset, MA; married; children: three daughters. Education: Graduated from Tufts University.
Home—Boston, MA. Agent—Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency, c/o Edward Orloff, 250 W. 57th St., Ste. 2114, New York, NY 10107. E-mail—[email protected]
Boston Globe, staff writer.
National Headliner Award.
The Assist: Hoops, Hope, and the Game of Their Lives, PublicAffairs (New York, NY), 2007.
Work represented in numerous anthologies, including The Best American Crime Writing 2005, edited by James Ellroy, Otto Penzler, and Thomas H. Cook, Harper Perennial (New York, NY), 2005; The Best American Science Writing 2006, edited by Atul Gawande, Harper Perennial (New York, NY), 2006; The Best American Crime Reporting 2007, edited by Linda Fairstein, Otto Penzler, and Thomas H. Cook, Harper Perennial (New York, NY), 2007; and The Best American Political Writing 2007, edited by Royce Flippin, PublicAffairs (New York, NY), 2007.
Born in Somerset, Massachusetts, Neil Swidey is a graduate of Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. As a staff writer for the Boston Globe, his stories cover a wide variety of subject matter, from the beginning of the Iraq war as experienced in the Arab countries to romance in retirement homes, as well as many profiles. He has won the National Headliner Award twice and his articles are featured in a number of anthologies, including "The Self-Destruction of an M.D." in The Best American Crime Writing 2005; "What Makes People Gay?" in The Best American Science Writing 2006; "The Inside Job" in The Best American Crime Reporting 2007; and "The Lessons of the Father" in The Best American Political Writing 2007.
Swidey's first book, The Assist: Hoops, Hope, and the Game of Their Lives, began as a profile he was writing about Boston's Charlestown High School basketball team during its 2004-05 season. Swidey expanded his article into a book because of his fascination with and empathy for the boys and their coach. Led by taskmaster Jack O'Brien, the team won five state-championship titles in six years. However, what makes the story compelling is that almost all of the players who stayed with O'Brien's demanding program—all of whom lived in high-crime areas and attended poorly rated schools—not only graduated from high school, but went on to college. Swidey offers a profile of a team training to face the future against a host of almost insurmountable obstacles. He addresses the subjects of race, family, and education, while investigating why some boys persevered to succeed in basketball and in life, while others ultimately failed.
Critics praised The Assist for its compelling and sensitive portrayals. Steve Wulf, writing in Entertainment Weekly, commented: "There's triumph, tragedy, and salvation in this story." A reviewer in Publishers Weekly stated, "This is a prodigiously reported, compulsively readable book that readers (sport fans or not) will savor," while a Kirkus Reviews contributor found that Swidey's "straight journalistic chops infuse the legal proceedings and the player profiles with a higher-than-expected level of gravitas." Reviewing The Assist for Booklist, Alan Moores said, "This captivating account transcends its time and place."
An added outcome of the publication of The Assist was the establishment of the Alray Taylor Second Chance Scholarship Fund, a scholarship for Boston college students who have had to leave college, providing a means for them to return to school and graduate. It is named after a Charlestown High 2002 graduate, one of Jack O'Brien's former basketball players, who was an MVP in the Boston City League Titles for 2001-02 and a Globe All-Scholastic athlete. He was shot to death in 2006 just before his twenty-second birthday.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2007, Alan Moores, review of The Assist: Hoops, Hope, and the Game of Their Lives, p. 12.
Entertainment Weekly, January 18, 2008, Steve Wulf, review of The Assist, p. 85.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2007, review of The Assist.
Publishers Weekly, November 26, 2007, review of The Assist, p. 41.
Assist Web site,http://www.theassist.net (July 30, 2008), review of The Assist and author biography.
Boston Globe Online,http://bostonglobe.com/ (July 30, 2008), author profile.
Nieman Narrative Digest,http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/ (July 30, 2008), author profile.
YoungadultARCs,http://yaarc.blogspot.com/ (September 14, 2007), review of The Assist and short author biography.