By Denise Turney
I’m glad I bought this book. More than the short autobiography of Muhammad Ali’s daughter, Laila, Reach is a story about one woman’s determination to achieve her dreams and fulfill her destiny. At the start of the book, I was surprised to discover the challenges, many self-created, that Laila’s young life knew. She was a troubled teenager who found herself taking her confusion and painful emotions out on the one person closest to her – her mother. In that I found a familiar theme – troubled young girl reaches out to her mother for support while at the same time pointing her anger at that same mother. Reach allows readers to get an up-close view of Veronica Ali, Laila’s mother and the woman many Muhammad Ali fans thought destroyed one of Ali’s early marriages. Yet Reach is not Veronica or Muhammad’s story. It is truly Laila’s story. Readers hoping to learn more about Laila’s famous father’s personal life will not find that in Reach. It seems Laila made a specific point not to turn her autobiography into her famous father’s story. It is the way she pulls this off that causes the reader to respect her and draw nearer to her own personal story which she shares candidly.
Laila’s style of writing resembles the way she handles herself while in the public eye. She is honest, cuts no corners, and shares intimate scenes from her own life with the reader as though she was speaking with a good friend. It is almost as though she trust the reader with these crucial bits of her own personal history.
Reach is one of the best autobiographies written by a woman yet so young that she has yet to live half her life. Her youth notwithstanding, Laila Ali has achieved a level of success few realize. Her journey to success was not without challenge. In Reach Laila reveals, with a becoming humility, the mistakes she made on her journey toward becoming a woman. Her street sense may surprise some. Each chapter is sculpted as if it was a round of boxing. Hence, the book consists of 15 chapters. Many of the life experiences Laila shares are being faced by many young people today, others are unique to Laila’s background and personal circumstances. Readers may be surprised to find that although born with a silver spoon in her mouth, Laila never felt comfortable with the trappings of celebrity. She struck out on her own at a young age and came to know a deep independence well before her eighteenth birthday. Not one to rest on her father’s accomplishments, she set off to chart her own course.
Reach chronicles that journey thus far. Parents, teachers and young readers will find valuable lessons in Reach. Through the book Laila hopes to reach young girls and help them avoid hard choices she herself did not. The open and candid style Laila approaches the story with makes that possible and the book itself a valued read.
By Denise Turney