DMT Beauty Transformation: These 6 Books About Women Athletes Will Get Your Heart Pumping
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These 6 Books About Women Athletes Will Get Your Heart Pumping

April 20, 2020DMT Beauty

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Reading can count as cardio — really. Not only do books give your brain a good workout, but some can also get your heart pumping and muscles firing. And since it takes creativity to stay fit while socially distancing, why not add page count to your step count?

As a novelist, I’m always interested in stories about women that history has overlooked, and the world of sports is full of them. A few years ago, my fourth-grader was working on a biography project and picked Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel. While I helped my daughter research Ederle’s life, the scope of this woman’s contribution to society dawned on me — the progress women athletes were making in sports like swimming, tennis, and running mirrored broader efforts by feminists to achieve more political and economic power across society.

Inspired by Ederle, I started digging around in history and found Betty Robinson, Helen Stephens, and Louise Stokes and knew that these three largely overlooked Olympic track stars of the 1930s would be the inspiration for my next novel, Fast Girls, because their dramatic stories of perseverance, friendship, and second chances are about so much more than running. So, even if you prefer kettle corn over kettlebells, you’ll find ways to relate to these athletes because at the core of every great sports story is a human story.

The following reading suggestions all feature superstar women athletes and cover everything from fiction to memoir to history, so slide off your running shoes, dive onto the couch, and prepare to be inspired.

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry (available here)

Big hair. Field hockey. Emilio Estevez. Witchcraft. Mash these things together and you get a clever and quirky novel about the members of the 1989 Danvers High School field hockey team who dabble in the dark arts to ensure a winning season. A perceptive look at the transformation of girls into young women, this one is wicked fun.

A Team of Their Own: How an International Sisterhood Made Olympic History by Seth Berkman (available here)

A couple of weeks before the 2018 Olympics opened in PyeongChang, an unlikely women’s South Korean hockey team hastily took shape. Why unlikely? Its roster, bolstered with women of Korean descent from the United States and Canada, suddenly added players from North Korea. Like most sports books, this isn’t really about sports; it’s about identity, belonging, sisterhood, and culture. Miracles on ice can take many forms.



Young Woman and the Sea by Glenn Stout (available here)

In 2020, Gertrude Ederle is unfamiliar to many of us, but a century ago she was an athletic champion whose celebrity rivaled Babe Ruth’s. In 1926, two years after winning three medals at the Paris Olympics, she became the first woman to swim the English Channel, an amazing feat of endurance and perseverance that took 14 hours and 37 minutes, a time almost two hours faster than the speediest of the five men who had gone before her. Along with recreating Ederle’s harrowing Channel journey in vivid detail, renowned sports writer Glenn Stout infuses life back into Ederle and shows us why President Coolidge called her “America’s Best Girl.”

Tigerbelle: The Wyomia Tyus Story by Wyomia Tyus and Elizabeth Terzakis (available here)

In this memoir, Wyomia Tyus tells of her journey from Georgia as a sharecropper’s daughter to how she landed a coveted spot on the Tennessee State women’s track and field team, the Tigerbelles, and her domination in Olympic sprinting during the 1960s, a reign that included three gold medals and one silver. The story of Tyus and the Tigerbelles has been likened to a sports version of Hidden Figures and the comparison is apt. Though Tyus and her teammates never graced the cover of a Wheaties box or Sports Illustrated, these African-American women became an unparalleled force in track and field, breaking barriers and setting records and challenging the racism and sexism of their era.
Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn by Larry Colton (available here)

When journalist Larry Colton arrived in Montana, he intended to write about the central role basketball plays in the tribal Crow culture of its young men, but instead it’s the grace and talent of high-school senior Sharon LaForge that captivates him and he ends up following the Lady Bulldogs and their season. The contrast between LaForge’s discipline on court and the messiness of her private life creates a compelling tension for an exploration of reservation life and the challenges facing many indigenous people. Colton, a former professional baseball player, produces a story that will stick with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey by Ila Jane Borders and Jean Hastings Ardel (available here)

Ila Borders scores a win with this memoir about her exploits as the lone woman playing on men’s baseball teams, starting with Little League, continuing into college, and then as a player for several professional independent teams. Ila’s game descriptions are excellent, but it’s her honesty and insight about who she really is underneath the stats and hype that make this a hit.

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

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Elise Hooper, Khareem Sudlow

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