BB: I didn’t interview the figures for the book, I wrote their chapters based on their pasts, research, and my longtime awareness of them. I met Gregory several years ago when we were picked up together at Boston Logan Airport to present at the same conference in New Hampshire.
CE: What other books have you written and what are you working on now?
BB: I wrote a biography of L.A. Lakers legend Elgin Baylor, and I wrote a book on a unique and historic summer basketball league founded on Martha’s Vineyard in 1970. I also wrote a book called Sky Kings, a young adult text on early Black touring basketball teams and pioneers. I am working on a few feature screenplays and a docuseries.
CE: What has been the most satisfying feedback you received about this book, both from children and from adults?
BB: PEN/Faulkner arranged classroom visits for the book, and schoolchildren have asked wonderful, heartwarming questions about the upbringing of the subjects, my writing process, or in some cases have been assigned group or individual projects to present orally or in poster form about one of the featured persons.
One boy of around 14 has become a huge Muhammad Ali fan because of the work, and was stoked to meet me. I’ve counted more than 10 states or cities whose libraries or school system named the book to its Black History Month, Women’s History Month, new books, or Dr. King Day suggested readings lists.
As W.E.B. Dubois said, “To stimulate wildly weak and untrained minds is to play with mighty fires.”
Bijan Bayne Bio:
Born in Boston, Bijan C. Bayne is an award-winning Washington-based freelance columnist and critic, and author of Sky Kings: Black Pioneers of Professional Basketball, which was named to the Suggested Reading List of the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004. The book is also cited in “Booktalks Plus: Motivating Teens to Read” by Lucy Schall, and was named a Suggested Book of Interest by the organization Teachers Network, in 2010. He is also the author of the first biography of basketball hero Elgin Baylor. Elgin Baylor: The Man Who Changed Basketball, was named a Book That Inspires, by the Christian Science Monitor, and one of the Most 25 Inspiring Books of 2015, by Conversations Book Club.