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story behind the book | kate tuttle

The beautiful game, a riven Maine town

david wilson for the boston globe

When Amy Bass went to college in Lewiston, Maine, in the late 1980s the former factory town was struggling. “When I was at Bates, the bottom had already fallen out of the manufacturing industry in New England,” Bass said. “Like so many other New England towns, there was a lot of empty space.”

In 2015 two news stories brought Bass back to town. “A friend posted a small newspaper article,” Bass said, about how an influx of new residents, mostly Somali refugees, had transformed the city and its high school soccer team. “It caught my eye,” said Bass, whose previous books have centered on sports, race, and politics. Bass read about the Lewiston soccer team just after the coordinated terrorist bombings in Paris in November, a time of fractious and often hate-filled political discourse around refugees and terrorism.


Bass’s fourth book, “One Goal: A Coach, a Team, and the Game That Brought a Divided Town Together,” chronicles the players, their coaches, and their families as they compete for a state championship. “There are some painful moments in the story,” Bass said, including racism encountered in town and on the field. “The way they deal and the way they cope is the same on the soccer field as it is in terms of what their parents tell them,” she said. “The way that these coaches have brought this team together is that they put the game first.”

Gaining the teenagers’ trust was a big step in writing the book, said Bass, who eventually found herself welcomed into their homes, locker room, and even the team huddle. “They were so open and so generous, and I’m so grateful to them,” she said. “I’m really thrilled that I’ve gotten to know Lewiston again in this new phase of its being, because it’s an incredible place.”


Bass will read 7 p.m. Monday at An Unlikely Story, 111 South St., Plainville, and 12:45 p.m. Tuesday at Newbury College, 129 Fisher Ave., Brookline.

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Kate Tuttle, president of the National Book Critics Circle, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.