They were a talented team with a near perfect record But for five straight years when it came to the crunch of the playoffs the Amherst Lady Hurricanes a finesse high school girls' basketball team of nice girls from a nice town somehow lacked the scrappy hard driving desire to go all the way Now led by the strong back court of All American Jamila Wideman and three point specialist Jen Pariseau and playing beyond their personal best this is their year to prove themselves in the state championships Their season to test their passion for the sport and their loyalty to each other Their time to discover who they really are In These Girls Hope is a Muscle is the fierce funny and intimate look into the minds and hearts of one group of girls and their uest for success and most important of all respect A great book about over coming challenges Super inspiring Was inspired to re read this one recently almost 20 years after the first time I read it and wow will time make you experience a book differently But you already knew that I hopeI like In These Girls just as much but for a whole new set of reasons but mainly the journalism The reporting and the writing the beautiful depiction of truth as related remarkably to both a particular community and to a national culture Inspired anew because it was such a thorough and impressive reminder that the seemingly mundane rarely ever is that there are stories worth mining and telling everywhere and always and that a well meaning open hearted reporter can connect the dots in all important ways that stand up unfortunately in some ways for at least a couple of decades This book was recommended to me as a father of girls a coach of girls basketball and a resident of Western Massachusetts near where the story is based And sadly something rubbed me the wrong way about it The story follows a collection of high school girls who play varsity basketball for the Amherst Hurricanes led by two all American players Jen Pariseau and Jamila Wideman and their coach Ron Moyer in their pursuit of a championship Ms Blais the author had apparently expanded the book from an article in the New York Times Magazine and I couldn't help thinking that I probably would have preferred the original article Despite occasional heartfelt and revealing glimpses into the passions and dreams of girl athletes there were long stretches of the book lacking substance long detours that detracted from the narrative force of the book and overblown stereotypes of Amherst that self consciously tried to explain the town to the rest of the world in a way that felt simplistic derisive and distanced me as a reader from the characters as real people I wondered if the parts that I hated the most were maybe trite filler content to expand the article to book lengthAs an example this passage about February in western MA Colleagues and neighbors who were friendly in the summer sharing their hippie bedspreads and their tabouli and their tofu scrambler on the lawn at Porter Phelps Huntington House along the banks of the Connecticut River during the Wednesday evening concerts now ignore each other as they gingerly navigate streets burdened with snow and ice Aside from being rambling the description is utterly unrepresentative of the families whose children were the subject of the book Tofu scrambler? I get it people are hunkered down in the wintertime I get it Amherst has a reputation for being liberal Now get back to the kids Or the coach Or the narrative please The book definitely seemed to have trouble deciding its own subject Was there a major character or conflict? No not really Was it mainly profiles of the girls? Not well done and lacking even a team photo to match faces with names The story of winning a championship? Even that was botched The book bounced from the western Massachusetts regional championship game to another game against Haverhill that was apparently the state championship game except it wasn't clear Instead of saying what the game significance was the author instead focused on the origins of the Centrum arena in Worcester Wait what? Was the regional championship game really a state semi final? Or did something get skipped? Continuity was abandoned Consistency lostThe topic was great and overdue thank you Ms Blais for bringing us into the world of adolescent girls sports The intention was great The delivery however left me disappointed Three stars if you went to UMass in the early 1990s or have another connection to the Amherst area at that time Three and a half stars if you attended a small seminar class with Blais while she was writing this book If none of those apply to you you'd probably give it two starsBlais's class we were reading current contemporary non fiction books including Friday Night Lights At the end of the semester she held a panel with several of the authors we read including Buzz Bissinger I feel this book was inspired by Bissinger's success with FNLI enjoyed the descriptions of Amherst in 1992 because I was there then Not sure you'd need so much detail about the town if you never lived there though The tone of the town doesn't necessarily inform girls' basketball in the same way the flavor of Odessa Texas informed football in FNLA decent read about girls' sports at a particular moment in history before professional women's teams Though Blais tries to help us know most of the girls on the team it feels a little skewed toward the point of view of Jen Pariseau one of two co captains Perhaps Blais spent time with Jen than other playersI immediately Googled Jamila Widener the other co captain after I finished this book because the epilogue mentions her college basketball team Stanford playing in the final four of the NCAA tournament I was curious whether she had any other tournament appearances after the book was published I was not surprised to learn she played for several years in the WNBA I was surprised however to learn that she appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with her famous father John Edgar Wideman A main focus of the SI article is Jamila's brother who murdered his roommate at a camp when he was 16 and is still serving a life sentence Why was this not mentioned in Blais's book? Blais mentions the personal lives of all the players Certainly the team members must have been aware of the situation Perhaps many Amherst residents knew as well I uestioned the book and its spin after learning of this omissionI understand that the focus of the book is girls sports basketball and this particular season for this team Perhaps the shadow in Jamila's past is not mentioned out of respect for the Wideman family Also no one Googled anything in 1993 We hardly used the internet at all and had not been introduced to the world wide web How could Blais have known this would be how we proceed after reading nonfiction in this millenium?
- 272 pages
- In These Girls Hope is a Muscle
- Madeleine Blais
- 06 October 2014 Madeleine Blais