Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women’s Olympic Team by Elise Hooper

If you are all caught up on this week’s Buddy Read of Bicycling with Butterflies: My 10,201-Mile Journey Following the Monarch Migration by Sara Dykman and you’ve mulled over the discussion questions, and your thoughts are drifting to the upcoming Olympic games, then you might be interested in the book Fast Girls by Elise Hooper.

Fast Girls is a fictionalized account of the US Women’s Track team in the 1936 Olympics and the events that lead to Betty Robinson, Louise Stokes, Helen Stephens, and their teammates competing in the Nazi-sponsored games. While Jesse Owens was the public star of the games that same year, these trailblazing women were quietly carving out a place for themselves in history.

Betty Robinson:

The 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam marked the first time women were allowed to compete in track events. Seventeen year old Betty won the gold in the 100 m race, matching the world record time, and took the silver in the women’s 4×100 relay. Robinson missed the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games following a near death accident. She fought her way back to competition strength to earn a place on the 1936 team.

Louise Stokes:

Louise Stokes and Tiyde Pickett were the first Black women to be selected to compete in the Olympic after qualifying in the 1932 Olympic trials. Both women accompanied the US team to Los Angeles, but both were left off of the relay team that year. Stokes and Pickett were both among the eighteen Black athletes at the 1936 games. Stokes was once again left off the relay roster, failing to compete for a second time. She was welcomed home to Malden, Massachusetts with a hero’s welcome and she went on to found the Colored Women’s Bowling League.

Helen Stephens:

Helen, the “Fulton Flash” Stephens was a sprinter who never lost a race in her career. At 18 she competed against and beat Stanisława Walasiewicz (aka Stella Walsh-Clevelanders may recognize her name!), the reigning champion and world record holder in the 100 m race. While in Berlin, she had an unpleasant encounter with Adolph Hitler. Shortly after the Olympics she retired from running, but went on to play professional baseball and softball and eventually became the first woman to own and manage a semi-professional basketball team.

All of these amazing women overcame different hardships in order to pursue their dreams. While the world remembers the name Jesse Owens, these women also raced their way in to Olympic history in 1936. If you like captivating historical fiction, courageous women, and a good underdog story, you’ll probably enjoy Fast Girls. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself putting down the story to further research the events in the book. Their stories are heartbreaking and inspiring and deserve to be known.

~Megan

Inauguration Day Reads: American Presidents in Fiction

Since 1937 Inauguration Day has been on January 20th, following the election. If January 20th is a Sunday the president-elect is sworn in privately and the public Inauguration is held on January 21st. The presidential term begins at noon, when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court administers the oath of office to the president-elect. And with that bit of presidential trivia, I present to you these fictional titles featuring real presidents.

~Megan

Chocolate Day Reads

Try some chocolate themed fiction. We have sweet chocolate stories, dark chocolate stories, and even some hot chocolate stories.

Maybe nonfiction is more to your taste. We’ve got you (chocolate) covered.

Happy Reading (and sweet snacking)!

~Megan

Reconnect@RRPL – Keep Calm … and Read Historical Fiction

2020 has been something else! To escape, lately I’ve been reading one historical fiction novel after another. Not only does taking a peek at the trials and tribulations across centuries help me feel like we really don’t have it that bad, but it is also really entertaining.

The atmospheric The Lost Orphan by Stacy Halls is set in 1754 in London. Bess is a street hawker of shrimp who is forced, due to poverty, to give up her illegitimate day-old daughter to the nearby foundling hospital, with the intention to reclaim her one day. Six years pass before Bess has enough money to do just that, but instead learns that the girl has already been taken, years previously, by someone claiming to be Bess. As she seeks to find out what happened to her little girl, Bess’s story is contrasted with that of a wealthy woman who, under the guise of protecting her own young daughter from the dangers of London, does not allow her to leave the confines of their home. This captivating novel about family, secrets, class, equality, power and the meaning of motherhood is a good reminder that the struggle between the haves and have-nots is indeed a very old story.

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline is another page-turning historical about the plight of less fortunate women. It is set in the early 19th-century in Van Diemen’s land, a penal colony in Australia, where thousands of convicts were shipped from overcrowded English prisons and forced to provide free labor to the settlers there. This novel follows the journey of two such young English women, Evangeline and Hazel, both of whom were wrongly accused and imprisoned. Their stories intertwine with that of an Aboriginal girl, Mathinna, who at the age of eight is adopted as a “curiosity” by white colonists who attempt to “civilize” her. Impeccably researched, this novel educates and enthralls. I read it in one sitting.

Perhaps you also need an escape. Find it in these and other books when you Reconnect@RRPL.

-Carol

Imagine Your Story : Historical Fiction That Educates, Too

This week had me occupied with a book recommendation from my husband. While we generally agree on films, food and other critical-to-marriage subjects, books are where he sticks to nonfiction, but where I enjoy more of the make-believe varieties.

So when he reads fiction and then wants to talk about it, I am in. And, spoiler alert, he was right (and now that I’ve blogged about it, has bragging rights). The King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips is that good. In this book, set in 1601, the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I is dying without an heir. Her likely successor is James VI of Scotland, who outwardly professes to be Protestant, but raised Catholic and with a Catholic wife, whose religious convictions are difficult to decipher. Those who wish to see England’s crown pass to a Protestant heir, including spy and stage actor Geoffrey Belloc, are desperate to know James’ heart on the matter.

kingatedge

A man without a dog in this fight is Ottoman Muslim Doctor, Mahmoud Ezzedine, who, banished to England because of unfortunate events, has been forced to become an expert on the nuances of Christianity and English politics. If Ezzedine has has any hopes of seeing his family again, he must assist Belloc. Ezzedine is made to be a judge of that which he knows little, in order to save a realm of which he cares little, in the faint hope he can return to the world he came from.

Today, it can be hard for some people to see beyond their perceptions of a person’s culture. This is one of the themes in this historical fiction/mystery hybrid novel. The doctor becomes a good spy, because while he might be distrusted for his foreignness, his foreignness also makes him invisible. Unseen, what will this man do to become free?

Not only is this book entertaining on so many levels, it may also have you reconsidering your own preconceptions of other cultures and people. In my opinion, that’s good fiction that educates.    ~Carol

Virtual Book Club – Week 3 – Book Woman

Hello everyone, it’s time again for our virtual book club! We’re in our third week of talking about The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, which you can get right now from Hoopla if you click that link. No waiting, no holds, always available!

This week, we will talk about the community scrapbooks that Cussy makes, as well as a ‘spoilery’ question about Cussy’s genetic condition. Don’t read the second question if you haven’t read about the ‘cure’ for Cussy’s blueness. You’ve been warned!

  • Imagine you were making a community scrapbook like the ones Cussy distributes to the people of Troublesome. What would you include? Do you think these materials were helpful to Cussy’s library patrons?  
  • When Cussy receives the cure for her blueness from Doc, she realizes there’s a price to pay for her white skin and the side effects soon become too much to handle. If you were in Cussy’s shoes, would you sacrifice your health for a chance at “normalcy”? If there weren’t any side effects, do you think Cussy would have continued to take the medication? Would you? 

Questions from the author’s website.

We’re dying to hear what you think in the comment section below! And make sure to check back next Sunday for our next batch of discussion questions and comments.

Your Library Staff at Home – Spending Time at Court

No, I wasn’t on jury duty, but I’ve recently been to court–Henry VIII’s court, that is! I’ve just read The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, a novel I’ve waited eight years for. This novel closes Mantel’s historical fiction trilogy, depicting the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII, ultimately leading to Cromwell’s execution. (Now, now, don’t be mad. It’s not a spoiler, that’s an actual fact!) Mantel’s Cromwell is a dynamic, believable and sympathetic character. Readers will love him as he commits despicable acts, root for him even as he is doomed. She won Man Booker Awards for her first two in the series (Wolf Hall, 2009 and Bring Up the Bodies, 2012) and her latest is a satisfying and poignant conclusion. Oh, but it is 754 pages. Beyond worth reading for this fan, but if you wanted the DVD or streaming version, you’ve lucked out. It (sort of) exists.

Wolf Hall is the British television of the first two books in the trilogy and was broadcast on PBS Masterpiece in April 2015, winning a Golden Globe for Best Miniseries or Television Film. Starring Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell, Damian Lewis as Henry VIII, and Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn, this six part series is beautifully acted, darkly lit, and filmed with incredible attention to period detail and faithfulness to the books. I’m hoping they’ll adapt book three!

Politics, murder, backstabbing and family drama–Cromwell’s life was full of it and his story provides a fascinating escape. Sure the history is dark, the characters are doomed, and we know how it will end, but I dare you to look away.