Review: The Boys of Riverside: A Deaf Football Team and a Quest for Glory

In The Boys of Riverside, Thomas Fuller shares an uplifting, deeply inspiring true story about how--through hard work, determination, and skill--underdogs can beat the odds and triumph. His narrative deconstructs the Riverside Cubs, an all-deaf high school football team, "tormented by loss" since its inception in the 1950s, whose dedication to personal sacrifice and teamwork eventually transformed them into victors.

The story begins in 2021, when Fuller, a news correspondent serving as San Francisco bureau chief for the New York Times, received an e-mail about a high school football team in Riverside, at the California School for the Deaf--a 51-student, state-run public school. While the U.S. was still mired in the Covid pandemic, Fuller was drawn to the heartening story about the school and its undefeated football team, which was comprised of eight players on their way to a winning season. Intrigued, he put his career on hold and, deploying his investigative reporting skills, spent the season culling stories of the team, the history and formation of the deaf school, and the intricacies of Deaf Culture.

A captivating, life-affirming mosaic emerges. Fuller examines the lives, backgrounds, and families of key team players. He goes into the role visual synchronization played in pivotal game match-ups, and the many physical and athletic challenges that were conquered on the road to the championship, including a host of injuries and, in one case, homelessness. At the center of the huddle of players, Fuller also tells the story of deaf head coach Keith Adams and how he came to lead the team. He motivated and guided the players, fortifying them with a sense of fierce mental toughness that drove them to celebrated success. Interwoven throughout are fascinating historical details about deaf history and how stigmas have evolved over centuries.

Fuller's all-encompassing narrative will hold great appeal for sports fans and general readers alike. The Riverside Cubs showed the world that deafness imposes "no impediment to sporting glory." Rather, their perceived limitations served to empower and accentuate their excellence. This triumphant, hopeful story ultimately reveals the many virtues--personally and via teamwork--that combined to achieve the quintessential American Dream. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Shelf Talker: An inspiring true story about an all-deaf, California high school football team who beat the odds to become winners--in every sense of the word.

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