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Fast Girls is historical fiction that introduces us to real women who broke world records, achieved Olympic gold, rose above rampant racism, sexism, and the societal norms meant to keep them off the track... out of the running for their dreams... out of their place in history.
Betty Robinson. Louise Stokes. Helen Stephens. Remember their names. These fast girls will teach us much that goes far beyond 100 meters. From them, we will gain the perspective and insight that becomes a kind of second wind, which is what you need when you hit the wall during a race, or in the midst of dealing with life's hard challenges.
Each fast girl had to rise above tremendous obstacles to become who she was destined to be. Take Betty Robinson, for starters. As the first American woman to achieve Olympic gold, at the very first Olympics that included female athletes (Amsterdam, 1928), it seemed the "Golden Girl" had it made. Not long afterwards, Robinson was involved in a near-fatal plane crash that left her body wrecked beyond hope of any kind of recovery, or any return to her former glory. Everyone counted her out. Everyone, that is, except Betty herself. What she does with her brokenness is what will define her greatness.
Next up, Louise Stokes. As a member of the first integrated Olympic team, Stokes, a black athlete, will face the kind of abuses no one deserves, or should ever experience. Her treatment, how she copes with it, and where it leads, even to today's Black Lives Matter movement, is not just a lesson for the history books. It is living history. It matters as much right now as it did back in 1932.
Which brings us to Helen Stephens. Stephens, a misfit, unwanted by her father, mocked and bullied by her childhood peers, so different, so confused about her identity, so incredibly talented. What will become of Helen? Who will see her immense promise and provide a means for her to leave the bleak, hardscrabble existence of her youth?
Fast Girls is about so much more than blazing speed. Even though these women, at their peak, were the fastest women in the world, what mattered, and still matters, is what they did with their enormous capacity for turning tragedies into personal triumph. Their disappointments and losses, perhaps even more than their triumphs, are what make for compelling reading.
This is a book for the history buff, the athlete, the coach, the teacher, the enthusiastic spectator, the one who cares about the worthiness, and enormous value, of every single person who asks only to be allowed the opportunity to fly down that straightaway toward the achievement of a dream... toward the fulfillment of personal destiny.
*I received an ARC of Fast Girls from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I wish to thank the author, Elise Hooper, and her publisher, HarperCollins, for this opportunity.
**You may also wish to check out my five-star review of Elise Hooper's fabulous book Learning to See.
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