Dust Bowl Girls, by Lydia Reeder, is one of the most exciting, informative, and thoroughly engaging non-fiction books I’ve read this year. This is a book that must be optioned for film — it has all the ingredients for a truly spellbinding movie. Think Hoosiers, A League of Their Own, or The Blind Side.
Author Reeder has done an exhaustive amount of research on the coach, Sam Babb (a great-uncle of the author) and the women of the 1932 Oklahoma Presbyterian College girl’s basketball team. She shares the research in a detailed Notes section.
Basketball was different in the 1930’s – more-so for women than for men – and there was also the struggle for acceptance of women’s sports during this time. Basketball was thought to be especially bad for girls. Despite all this, Sam Babb desired to coach a girl’s basketball team at his college and made recruiting trips to rural areas, bringing in young girls who thought they might not otherwise be able to even attend college (this is still the era of the Great Depression) by offering sports scholarships.
The young girls that Babb recruits are all talented athletes in their own right, but Babb’s coaching emphasizes teamwork, which can be challenging for a group of stand-outs. But Babb also insists that the girls stay focussed on their school work. On the court, he has the girls learn all the different positions (which seems a bit genius, given the time and the style of play in the 30’s) – this gives each girl a respect for what has to happen to create effective teamwork.
What Reeder does extremely well in this book is get into the heads of the players and coach (based on journals of and discussion with the players). She also does an excellent job of building tension over the course of the season. following many of the games and detailing their exploits. I just HAD to keep reading to learn if that would win that next game!
The background on Babb is tremendous, and his personal story along would qualify this book for a movie deal. Add the stories of the girls and their challenge to win a national title and you have a compelling drama, which Reeder lays out before the reader with mastery.
Just over a year ago I watched a very small town boys high school basketball team win a State title, which also had its share of injuries and drama and challenges, and I know first-hand what that excitement and anticipation is like. Reeder’s book captures that excitement perfectly and the reader is transported back to 1932 and living those games.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in sports, basketball, history, women’s sports, biographies, or simply interested in great non-fiction.
Looking for a good book? This is it. Dust Bowl Girls, by Lydia Reeder, has it all: action, biography, athletics, history, and even some romance. This is a book you want first on your “to read” list and then on your “have read” list.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Dust Bowl Girls: A Team’s Quest for Basketball Glory
author: Lydia Reeder
publisher: Algonquin Books
hardcover, 304 pages