By all accounts, Amy Bass is a pretty observant human.
An accomplished author, lecturer and Emmy-winning producer, the Bates College graduate has traveled the world.
When she returned to Lewiston a couple of years ago to work on her latest book, “One Goal,” she reached for her GPS.
A two-year resident of John Bertram Hall while at Bates in the early 1990s, Bass punched in the address for Lewiston Middle School.
Spoiler alert: Lewiston Middle School is across the street from John Bertram Hall.
“I will admit this, because this is terrible,” Bass admitted recently. ” … I didn’t know Lewiston Middle School was behind John Bertram Hall. That’s on me, and that’s terrible, but I think it’s probably typical.”
Bass was a self-described “typical” college student in an era when Bates cautioned its students to remain on campus as much as possible.
“We knew where the Cage was, and the Blue Goose,” Bass remembered. “Beyond that, we stayed pretty much right on campus.”
It was a “live-and-let-live” era in the relationship between Bates and the city of Lewiston.
When Bass returned to campus in 2015-16, things felt decidedly different.
“Coming back to Lewiston was really eye-opening for me,” Bass said. “It does feel different, there’s an energy in the city that feels different, and it feels different maybe because I’m looking at it through different eyes. But it feels good. I don’t know if it’s that different, but it feels good. I like hanging out on Lisbon Street, seeing people, seeing filled storefronts. Are they probably what I would have predicted back when I was a college student? No, not necessarily, but I think it’s really good.”
The anecdote is a parallel to “One Goal,” developed from a common theme: Change.
Change is nothing new to Lewiston. The city has evolved continuously for generations. But the most recent, striking change in its demographics created the most tumult in at least 75 years. From a failed mill town with declining population, to a slowly rebounding mill town with a steady population after an influx of about 7,500 immigrants, Lewiston has stabilized.
But not everybody wants to see it that way.
For members of the immigrant community, many of whom had witnessed atrocities greater than most here can fathom, getting settled in their new home was made tougher by those who just plainly didn’t — and don’t — understand the process. It was tough on the parents, and it was even tougher on the children.
But the children, many of them found an outlet in sports — in soccer.
As the number of immigrant families ballooned, so, too, did the number of immigrant students in the city’s overtaxed school system, a point of consternation for many “legacy” families.
And on the fields and in locker rooms, the face of Lewiston High School athletics shifted, too — It was changing.
Nowhere did that change manifest itself greater than on the school’s boys’ soccer team. By the late 2000s, the team was primarily made up of students born outside of the United States, or to parents who had been. Coach Mike McGraw had to change the way he taught the game. Athletic Director Jason Fuller had to change the way he administered the program. And the community needed to embrace the changing face of the student population, a task with which it struggled — and in some ways continues to do so.
But in 2015, at least for one season, for one moment in time, the community did so.
A charmed team from the start, the Blue Devils of 2015 ran over the competition from start to finish, meeting its best match in the state final against Scarborough. But, as Bass aptly points out in her book, the team was that of destiny. It, in and of itself, facilitated change.
There were more people at the Class A state soccer championship game that Saturday than at the Class A state football game a couple of weeks later, and 75 percent of them were from Lewiston — and from all walks of life: Black. White. Somali. Congolese. American.
They’d all walked a different journey to reach that point, but in that moment, they all bled Blue and White.
As much as Bass’ book deals with the 2015 season — and it does so beautifully, with prose and anecdotes that pop off the page — it is also about the journey.
And not only the players’ journeys, but those of their families, too.
And Coach McGraw’s. And Coach Dan Gish’s. And Fuller’s.
Lewiston has changed since Bass first stepped foot on Bates College’s campus in the early 1990s. Bates College has changed.
The world has changed. It’s all ever-evolving.
But the small slice of life Bass captured in the two years she spent working on this project tells a tale that is, as she put it, “impossibly local,” yet surprisingly global. The theme of change and acceptance is perhaps as relevant in today’s society as it has ever been, and in recounting the Lewiston team’s story, she strikes a chord that should resonate well beyond the campus of Bates College — past Lewiston Middle School across the street — well beyond Maine, and across the globe.
“I felt so honored to be able to tell these pieces of these stories,” Bass said. “I also felt really burdened. I hope I told them the way they should be told. I hope I told their stories the way they should be told, and the way they wanted them to be told.”
Spoiler alert: Yes. Yes, she did.
How to get the book
Tuesday is the first day the book is on sale to the general public. The book can be found on Amazon.com, here: http://amzn.to/2sNj78k
How to meet the author
Amy Bass will be making Maine appearances in March:
Monday, March 12, 3 p.m. — Maine Immigrant and Refugee Service, 57 Birch Street
Monday, March 12, 6 p.m. — Lewiston Public Library, 200 Lisbon Street
Tuesday, March 13, TBA — Book-signing and talk at Pettengill Hall, Bates College
Tuesday, March 13, 7 p.m. — Longfellow Books, Monument Square, Portland