On the west bank of the Mississippi lies the New Orleans neighborhood of Algiers. Short on hope but big on dreams, its mostly poor and marginalized residents find joy on Friday nights when the Cougars of Edna Karr High School take the field. For years, this football program has brought glory to Algiers, winning three consecutive state championships and sending dozens of young men to college on football scholarships.
Although he is preparing for a fourth title, head coach Brice Brown is focused on something else: keeping his players alive. An epidemic of gun violence plagues New Orleans and its surrounding communities and has claimed many innocent lives, including Brown’s former star quarterback, Tollette “Tonka” George, shot near a local gas station.
In Across the River, award-winning sports journalist Kent Babb follows the Karr football team through its 2019 season as Brown and his team—perhaps the scrappiest and most rebellious group in the program’s history—vie to again succeed on and off the field. What is sure to be a classic work of sports journalism, Across the River is a necessary investigation into the serious realities of young athletes in struggling neighborhoods: gentrification, eviction, mental health issues, the drug trade, and gun violence. It offers a rich and unflinching portrait of a coach, his players, and the West Bank, a community where it’s difficult—but not impossible—to rise above the chaos, discover purpose, and find a way out.