Amy Bass is having a bittersweet moment. She’s thrilled to have found success in her book, “One Goal: A Coach, a Team and the Game That Brought a Divided Town Together,” but is troubled by how relevant and timely the subject matter has become.

“One Goal” tells the true, inspirational story of how Lewiston High School’s soccer team — divided between the white players who trace their lineage as Mainers back generations and newly-arrived refugees from war-torn Somalia — came together to win the 2015 state championship.

“I had no idea that America would be engaged in the immigration conversations, migration and citizenship conversations and the conversations about borders,” Bass said during a phone interview. “It feels almost overwhelming at times, but we need this story out there.”

Bass, a Massachusetts native and Bates College alum, will discuss the story and sign copies of her book at multiple Midcoast locations on Tuesday, July 17. 

“The microcosm (the book) represents has only grown, and everybody says I’ve written such a timely book, and it feels great,” Bass said. “But it’s bittersweet because the reasons (the book) has become so increasingly relevant I find disturbing and tragic.”

One team; divided community
The Lewiston High School Blue Devils soccer team, coached by Mike McGraw, combatted language and cultural barriers when Somali immigrants joined the squad as thousands of Somali refugees arrived in Lewiston starting in 2001.

While battling open racism on the streets of Lewiston, an overwhelmingly white community in one of the nation’s whitest states, the players bonded over their love of soccer while working toward one goal: To win the first state soccer title in Lewiston history.

Players endured blatant racism, according Bass. That included an instance in which the phrase “go back to Africa” was scrawled on a bathroom mirror, and the fact that players’ mothers and sisters were mocked for wearing hijab.

The team did more than persevere, dominating the field, giving up only seven goals the entire season. But nobody was prepared for what came after winning the state title in 2015, said Lewiston High School Athletic Director Jason Fuller.

“While we expected success, we had no idea of the media attention that we would get during the season and after,” Fuller said. “From Amy’s book to the documentary, all the attention has been a little overwhelming and difficult to manage.”

“One Goal” is not a just a book about high school soccer; it’s a book about race, diversity, division and coming together as a community, which Bass said is important, considering the nation’s divisive political climate.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Netflix has optioned the rights to “One Goal” with the hopes of turning it into a feature film. A Netflix spokeswoman confirmed the report but declined to provide any additional details regarding the deal, and Bass said she didn’t know anything more than what appeared in the Reporter.

Seeing Lewiston in a different light
With a potential movie comes increased exposure, and not everyone can be expected to know much, if anything, about Lewiston, Maine. Bass said she hopes her book can help educate people about Lewiston and erase some of the misconceptions people might have about, not only that city, but the whole state of Maine.

There are some broad stereotypes about Maine in general Bass hopes the book addresses adequately, including that it’s just a state of sailboats, lobster and blueberry pies.

“Early in the book I look at issues of poverty and other things Maine grapples with in very serious ways, like lots of other towns in New England,” Bass said. “Not dismissing these kinds of issues is something I hope people get out of the book.”

Despite poignant themes and images occurring outside of sports, Bass also wants people to take away an appreciation of soccer, especially with the men’s World Cup tournament nearing completion.

Hundreds of thousands of young people play soccer every Saturday morning, Bass said, yet there is still a general reluctance among Americans to embrace the sport, which is widely considered the most popular in the world.

“Lewiston is a hockey town, but it’s soccer and hockey in Lewiston now,” she said. “It’s amazing when you walk the streets of Lewiston that every kid you run into has a ball.”

McGraw said the national attention the team generated has been a source of pride for Lewiston and Auburn, and Fuller said the story has allowed Lewiston to highlight some of the good things about the city that too often is given negative attention.

Fuller said everyone on the team knew there could be a positive impact in the community, and McGraw and the coaching staff felt that soccer and playing together could be a great example for the community as a whole.

Certainly, we all felt that sports could help give our immigrant community a better sense of belonging,” Fuller said.

“While the story has highlighted the soccer program, I think the entire athletic department has played a role in this story and contributed to the success.”

More than just a game
The coaches and athletes overcame personal adversity, got to know each other as individuals, worked extremely hard and accomplished outstanding things on the field, Fuller said. “At this time in today’s world, this is such an important aspect,” he said.

The book — Bass’ fourth — has been compared by critics to the stories depicted in “Remember the Titans” and “Friday Night Lights.”

Bass teaches history at the College of New Rochelle in New York, and she talks the story and themes of “Friday Night Lights” with her students. She hopes her book has that type of educational impact.

“I love to think about (“One Goal”) in the classroom and it’s what I get excited about,” she said. There’s a soccer team in Connecticut reading it together this summer and using the story of the Blue Devils to teach them about working together. “That’s what excites me.”

Educating people about Lewiston — where she spent her college years — is also part of Bass’ mission.

Lewiston is not just a community that tolerates difference, Bass said, but it embraces difference, and that is seen at every level. Learning how to capitalize and embrace difference is what Bass thinks this story is about.

Despite the book’s story of togetherness and acceptance, Lewiston hasn’t completely accepted and embraced difference. 

Last month, a man died after being badly beaten during a brawl in the city’s Kennedy Park. Police continue to investigate, but Lewiston police Lt. David St. Pierre told the Sun Journal that there were people of different ethnic origins involved in the fight. 

“I think the fallout from the fatal brawl is something that Lewiston has the tools to recover from,” she said. “But I also think it is a symptom of the larger national picture right now.”

Stories go beyond the sidelines
Bass grew up in the Berkshires and is the daughter of two local journalists who worked for the Berkshire Eagle, so telling stories and seeking information has always been a part of her. She has focused much of her career on writing about sports and politics.

“I think sports are a great way to have conversations about some real tough things, and it’s always been that kind of gateway for me,” Bass said.

She said she is excited to visit different parts of Maine and share the story of the Blue Devils, especially when there are people, like McGraw and Fuller said, who have only a negative impression of Lewiston.

“I’m excited to talk about what’s going on in Lewiston, because getting better acquainted with this story is a good thing for the state to do,” she said. “I’m glad to come back and spend some time (in Maine).”

While in Maine, Bass said she’ll be sleeping on friends’ couches and visiting some independent book stores and libraries, including Freeport, Bremen and Rockport. It’ll be a lot of stops in a short period of time, but she said it’s worth it.

“I hear from so many readers that the book gives them hope, and I’m glad, but hope isn’t a done deal,” Bass said. “Hope means there’s a lot of work still to be done.”

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