Women in Sports and Women Authors by Victoria Patterson
February 5 celebrates National Girls and Women in Sports Day. But there is very little literature about women athletes, and women have written very few sports novels. The reason is simple: women have been largely excluded from athletics, and before Title IX passed in 1972, there wasn’t any way to change this.
The world of sports is considered to be masculine, and the literature surrounding it encompasses a cultural myth and ideology exclusive to men. Women are peripheral to these narratives—usually wives, girlfriends, mothers, and sisters to the main subjects.
In honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, here are four books I recommend:
Ms. Keegan has created an unforgettable character with her heroine, Philomena, aka Pip, a world class Olympic champion swimmer. What I love about this novel is that it reveals the strange dysfunctional family backdrop that drives Pip’s giant ambition, and how Pip’s desire to swim is complicated. Plus the prose is beautiful.
Ms. Ware’s informative account of Title IX is a behind the scenes look at the legislation that changed the course of history for American women. Ware manages to personalize the issue in this well-documented account. The year before Title IX passed, fewer than 295,000 high school girls and 30,000 college women participated in their schools’ athletic programs. In 2001, those numbers increased to 2.8 millions and 150,000, respectively.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know about Babe Didrikson Zaharias, one of the most gifted athletes of all time, until I began my own research on female athletes. Ms. Cayleff offers a detailed account of Babe’s incredible life. Her story is tragic, epic, and inspiring.
Winner of the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, Shapton’s memoir is a meditative exploration of the world of competitive and recreational swimming. With her spare and elegant writing and her original illustrations, Shapton allows us to enter her solitary, ambivalent, and private history of swimming.
Victoria Patterson is the author of the novel This Vacant Paradise, selected as an Editor’s Choice by The New York Times Book Review. Drift, her collection of interlinked short stories, was a finalist for the California Book Award and the 2009 Story Prize. The San Francisco Chronicle selected Drift as one of the best books of 2009. Her work has appeared in various publications and journals, including the Los Angeles Times, Alaska Quartlery Review, and the Southern Review. She lives with her family in Southern California and teaches at the Antioch University’s Master of Fine Arts program and as a Visiting Assistant Professor at UC Riverside. Victoria’s second novel, The Peerless Four, relates the fascinating story of Florence Smith, Bonnie Brody, Ginger Hadley, and Muriel Ziegler, who were among the first women to compete in the modern Olympics. Learn more and order your copy here.
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