Ginny Gilder fell in love with rowing when she was sixteen and saw a race on the Charles River. Completely hooked, when she went off to Yale, she was determined to have the chance to row. Not everything in her life was as easy as that decision (and achieving that one was by no means easy either). Rowing in the age just after the passing of Title IX, Gilder's path to a rowing shell was complicated and often unhappy. She came from a terribly dysfunctional family and had an unhappy childhood she desperately wanted to escape. Finding rowing, she found something she could pour her entire heart and soul into even as she had to fight the sexism of fellow athletes and coaches, fight her own personal demons, and fight the injuries that threatened to derail her secret dream: to row in the Olympics. Then she still had to endure world politics when we boycotted the 1980 Olympics.
Starting in the 70s, this memoir is both a very personal story for Gilder and a history of what Title IX has meant for all the women who have followed its passing. It is a testament to the powerful way that sports can impact a life. Gilder's story of her quest to become an Olympian, the way she pushes her body beyond, and her fierce determination to win and to come back after an injury interweaves with her own self-realization, an awakening to who she really is, going far beyond her amazing athletic career. She traces the roots of those things that hold her back and chronicles how she first pushes past them and then circles back to examine them closely. Sometimes this introspection and examination of her self doubt slows the narrative down a little too much. It is a testament to Gilder's spirit and the many course corrections she undertook along the way that she overcame such a troubled childhood and the inertia of a life she created but that wasn't the right life to ultimately find a contentment and a mission supporting women's sports. Gilder tackles the many social issues that shaped and continue to shape her life: infidelity, alcoholism, sexism, and homosexuality to name a few. And she holds the politics of sport up to the light. This is a celebration of not only rowing and reaching her dream but of accepting her life and who she is. Sports fans and those with a keen interest in the impact of Title IX will find this a fascinating read.
Thanks to the publisher and LibraryThing Early Reviewers for sending me a copy of the book to review.