Striking Out by Musa Okwonga and Ian Wright

Published on: 03 September 2023

When author Musa Okwonga and presenter and former footballer Ian Wright started to write Striking Out together, they knew they wanted their story - loosely based on Ian's childhood - to have the power to help children through difficult times. Musa Okwonga explains more... 

Ian Wright (left) and Musa Okwonga with the cover of Striking OutIan Wright (left) and Musa Okwonga with the cover of Striking Out

The choices we make can change the world

When Ian and I sat down to write Striking Out, we did so with a simple dream: we wanted our book to bring comfort to children who were going through the toughest possible times. Most of all though, we wanted it to be a celebration of the best that human beings can be - kind, resilient, supportive. We wrote the book in the middle of the lockdown caused by the pandemic, a time when countless people around the globe sacrificed so much in order to protect the health of countless other people they would never meet. That’s why, for us, the most important moments in Striking Out are when the characters make brave and spontaneous choices to make the world a better place.

Because, in the end, there is no such thing as “good” and “bad” people: there are the choices that we make to help our society heal, or the choices that we don’t.

That’s also why everyone in Striking Out has opportunities to take a more compassionate path - even the characters who it would be easy to dismiss as the villains of the book. At the same time, the book also looks at those situations where people feel such pressure from society that they take rash courses of action - some which may make their lives far worse.

The beautiful game

Striking Out is about all of those things - about community, about strength, about hope. But, of course, it is also about football. When we were outlining the plot of this book, it was very important for us to show the type of dedication that it takes to become as good as Jerome, or as Ian, or as Lauren James. Behind every successful strike on goal are a thousand frustrated attempts in practice, and we feel Jerome’s journey shows that well.

Some readers have commented that Jerome is something of a loner, and that’s right: in one sense, this book is the tale of his struggle to accept help. When, as Jerome does, you have a hard time at home, then it can be very difficult to find or trust those who have your best interests in mind. When we first came up with the idea of the book, the original idea was to write a version of Ian’s life story, because he is someone who went through so much even before he became a footballer. But then we thought we would write a different book: about Ian as a mentor, as someone who had learned how to open up and receive love, and who could therefore help Jerome to do that too.

If someone asked me to sum up Striking Out in one word, I would say: “Family”.

Striking Out discusses the families that we are born into - happy or otherwise - and the families that we find along our way. You can find family anywhere - at the barber shop, by the beach, or on the training ground. You just have to find a way of being ready for it. Ian and I are so happy that this book is out there in the world, and we just hope that it continues to reach people who care about, or maybe even recognise, the experiences of its hero Jerome.

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