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Arkansas tomboy Melissa King ditched the south for the big city at the less-than-tender age of 27. She picked Chicago because, as she writes in her new memoir, She's Got Next (Mariner), she was looking for someplace "cold, expensive, and the setting for at least one violent television show." And though she doesn't come out and say it, she was also looking to find herself. Subtitled "A Story of Getting In, Staying Open, and Taking a Shot," her book--which had its start in a 1998 Reader cover story--is about how she did just that by playing pickup basketball. In sketches that lope from the courts at Wicker Park and the New City Y to LA and back to her hometown, King takes on racism, sexism, and the challenges of urban life. Her voice is by turns wiseass, befuddled, and painfully honest, but it rarely fails to ring true, and her portraits of players--Snowmobile, Big White Guy, the philosophizing Plato--can be bitingly hilarious. Still, the characters that really stick are the awkward, cocky, doofy, and vulnerable kids she keeps getting tangled up with. When King finally settles into adulthood, as a coach at her local Boys & Girls Club, it's obvious she's found her stride, both on the court and on the page. Thu 6/30, 7:30 PM, Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark, 773-769-9299.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/David Huff.

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