Many books about Robinson had already been written prior to Allen’s, some with his participation, but most were published while he was still playing or recently retired. Yet history and biography are never complete because each generation sees events from its own perspective. Allen’s Jackie Robinson, therefore, has much to recommend it to young adults. It thoughtfully and earnestly tells the story of a bright, resourceful, and talented athlete who overcame childhood deprivations and generations of prejudice to carve a place for himself in baseball and to open doors for other African Americans.
Moreover, Robinson was equipped by his character and belief in education to succeed in all aspects of life. Even if he had not had the chance or the talent to play in the major leagues, he would have been a success because he had gone to college and he had a work ethic and a dignity that no racial abuse could undermine. Robinson was given the chance to join the Dodgers organization late in 1945 not only because of his talent but also because he had been to college and had been an officer in the United States Army. He had experienced segregation and racism, was already on record as fighting them, and would understand the importance of his effort in desegregating the United States’ national pastime.
Robinson’s story has other intriguing aspects. For example, there is the tragedy of his eldest son and namesake, who fought in Vietnam, became addicted to drugs, and appeared to have solved his problems only to die in an automobile accident. In addition, Robinson realized as he neared the end of his life that African Americans, whatever their accomplishments on the field, had not yet received the opportunity to manage or to hold executive positions in baseball. These are the type of questions that Americans still must face, and Allen’s book speaks to these issues as biographies and memoirs of celebrities in sports and entertainment rarely do.