Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Second Wind: The Memoirs of an Opinionated Man is a collection of essays in which professional basketball player Bill Russell discusses a variety of subjects, such as heroes, champions, racial prejudice, and being a celebrity. While the essays initially focus on Russell’s family and childhood and end with his retirement from sports, they do not provide a strict chronological account of his life story. Instead, he moves back and forth through the events of his life to illustrate his ideas. The result is a book that suggests a long conversation with an engaging, but opinionated, celebrity. This effect seems appropriate because the author’s note indicates that the book was created from tape recordings made while Russell and his coauthor, Taylor Branch, were golfing.

The first chapter, “Family Heroes,” describes Russell’s family and childhood. His father, “Mr. Charlie” Russell; his mother, Katie Russell; and his paternal grandfather, “Old Man” Russell, are depicted as strong individuals who, nevertheless, are victims of racial prejudice. Russell discusses various events that shaped him, including his family’s move from Monroe, Louisiana, to Oakland, California, and the death of his mother when he was twelve years old. The culture shock of moving and the loss of his mother caused Russell to retreat into books, which provided him with role models and a sense of African-American history.

Russell examines his concept of...

(The entire section is 499 words.)