The Missouri River Regional Library has chosen Elise Hooper's historical fiction, "Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women's Olympic Team," as this year's community read, known as Capital READ and now in its 14th year.
Hooper has written a thoroughly absorbing novel about the history of the first women's Olympic Team, the athletic training involved and the journey to the exciting, yet tension-filled 1936 games in Nazi Germany.
The book centers on three main "real-life" women and a host of others who make this book so appealing.
Chicago's Betty Robinson was part of the first-ever female delegation to the 1928 games that brought home both gold and silver medals. A few years later, she survived a horrific plane crash and fought overwhelming physical odds to make it to the Olympics a second time.
Boston native Louise Stokes is one of two Black women in this novel, who overcomes discrimination in two forms to join the team. One reason is for just "being a woman" and the other is, of course, because she is Black.
Missouri's own Helen Stephens, the "Fulton Flash," is a gawky high school outcast, who endures sexual abuse at the hands of a cousin and longs for acceptance from an unloving father. Running means everything to her; it's the only time she feels accepted and "normal."
The stories of these women are truly remarkable. I was humbly reminded of the daily privileges I take for granted. The only way of life I know and have experienced was fought for by brave women in less than ideal circumstances not so long ago.
This book is filled with examples of how far women have come and is a perfect choice for 2020, a year in which we celebrated what Congress passed June 4, 1919, and ratified Aug. 18, 1920 — the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote.
During the month of October, the Missouri River Regional Library is promoting several virtual events related to the themes of this book while leading up to Hooper's virtual talk on Nov. 5.
- Why the Olympics Were So Important to the Nazis: Fascism, Diplomacy, and Germany's Role in Interwar Europe — Dr. Bradley J. Nichols, department of history, University of Missouri, 7 p.m. Tuesday, virtual program via Zoom.
- Playing Like a Girl: Title IX and Equality for Athletes — Dr. Ahoo Tabatabai, department of psychology and sociology, Columbia College, 7 p.m. Thursday. Check the event calendar for the virtual link.
You may also watch events after the fact by finding them archived on our website under events and virtual programs.
Claudia Cook is the library director at the Missouri River Regional Library.