They Better Call Me Sugar by Sugar Rodgers: Book Review

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They Better Call Me Sugar by Sugar Rodgers Book Cover
Title: They Better Call Me Sugar: My Journey from the Hood to the Hardwood
Content Warning: Death of a parent

I am not a sports fan. Oh, I have some idea how the Dolphins are doing in football because my husband is a loyal, if frustrated and heartbroken, fan, but I only know the biggest of the big names in sports. Unfortunately, those names are always male.

Needless to say, I had never heard of Sugar Rodgers but she’s certainly a force to be reckoned with, both on and off the basketball court. Her sports career began in golf at age ten. She played well enough to be ranked among the top young players in Virginia. But her heart was in basketball so she made that transition.

Sugar’s home life was not easy. Drugs and crime were an everyday part of the hood where she grew up. Her mother passed away when she was only fifteen years old. She bounced around from friend to friend and relative to relative until she went to college.

“Where I’m from, college was frowned upon–you either dropped out of high school and hit the streets; got pregnant and then dropped out; went to jail; enlisted in the army; or you got killed. Graduating high school had always been my only academic goal.”

But Sugar is quick to acknowledge all those who pushed her, believed in her, and encouraged her. She describes herself as a lackluster student but mentors pushed her to do more so she could get into college and have a chance at a better life. Now she spends time encouraging others to change their circumstances.

“Instead of gangbanging and repping your hood, represent a college. Instead of selling drugs, start your own business, even if it’s just mowing people’s lawns. Instead of sinking into despair about all the violence you see, look beyond that and give somebody a helping hand.”

She may not have been the strongest student in the classroom, but she’s driven in other parts of her life. Competitive and confident, she always pushes herself to be better at sports and anything else she sets her mind to. She encourages her readers to chase their own dreams.

“Obstacles can be extremely daunting, but they can also be overcome. Some will be tougher than others, but I honestly believe that almost nothing is impossible. Even if you think something is impossible, at least try before quitting. You might fail, but at least you committed yourself to it.”

Sugar’s story is inspiring, but I do wish she’d taken on a co-author. Don’t get me wrong–this is written well enough and I highly recommend it. But there’s a lot of telling instead of showing and some events could have been explained more clearly. I think that if she had worked with a more experienced author, she could have polished this book into something truly stellar.

Even with that quibble, I do hope that Sugar’s story finds its way into the hands of young readers who are in situations similar to hers. We can’t all be WNBA superstars, but we can all try to improve our own situations

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