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Blows to the Head: How Boxing Changed My Mind (Excelsior Editions) Hardcover – January 7, 2010

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Product Details

  • Series: Excelsior Editions
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: State Univ of New York Pr (January 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1438430019
  • ISBN-13: 978-1438430010
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,276,552 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"`Why am I fascinated by boxing?' asks Binnie Klein. And like a savvy fighter, she approaches her question from a variety of angles: Is it to do with being Jewish? Being a woman? Approaching middle age? Is it about family history? Klein tackles these questions with a deft and admirably light touch. The result is the warmest, funniest, and most tough-minded boxing book I've ever read." -- -- Kasia Boddy, author of Boxing: A Cultural History

"...[a] delighted tone permeates Binnie Klein's memoir of her boxing obsession ... [the] passages are lean and strong, and convey the allure of pushing a body and mind past their usual limits ... [Klein] doesn't hold back from considerable self-reflection, but it never seems self-indulgent, only pensive." -- ForeWord Reviews

"A graceful, deft celebration of body and soul. Brava to Binnie Klein for tapping her strength--physical, emotional, and spiritual--and for telling a knockout of a personal story." ---- Janet Carlson, author of Quick, Before the Music Stops: How Ballroom Dancing Saved My Life.

"For everyone who ever believed in the ever-mortal wheel of change, Binnie Klein's wonderful tale of change is one of the most unusual stories ever told, one of how she reinvented her own wheel through the sport of boxing and turns around to gaze at the remote past and of what the future holds for her." -- -- Bert Randolph Sugar, author of Boxing's Greatest Fighters

"It's impossible not to be engaged by the story of Binnie--the youngest of three Brooklyn Jewish sisters who was supposed to be a boy named Benny. She skips school to watch General Hospital with her depressed mother, feeling mystified by her ornery, cigar-loving salesman father's love of boxing. Blows to the Head is an inspiring, poetic, and psychologically astute chronicle of how--in her midfifties--this unathletic, brainy psychotherapist finally found a strong, quick-footed, and powerful way to triumph over her past." ---- Susan Shapiro, author of Lighting Up: How I Stopped Smoking, Drinking, and Everything Else I Loved in Life Except Sex and Speed Shrinking

"Until now, I have avoided anything to do with boxing on the grounds that it was brutal and uncivilized. Reading Binnie Klein's elegantly literary, funny, philosophical, moving, and endlessly intriguing Blows to the Head has changed my mind! It's a wonderful discovery." ---- Katharine Weber, author of True Confections and Triangle

From the Back Cover

"I peered through the Venetian blinds in our den, with its view of the playground next door, and watched mournfully as the popular girls played softball. I wanted to run fast, hit hard, and wear a cute uniform. These girls seemed to know something about life that I didn't."

When Binnie Klein took up boxing in her midfifties, the reaction from friends and acquaintances was always the same: "You?" Why, after all, would a middle-aged Jewish psychotherapist with no previous history of athletics take up boxing? In Blows to the Head, Klein offers a provocative tale of an unlikely contender whose unexpected fascination with boxing takes her beyond the ring and leads her back to her roots and to a surprising chapter of the Jewish immigrant experience. With candor and wit, she reveals a series of memories and insights that would never have been possible if she hadn't been drawn toward a pair of boxing gloves during a physical therapy session. In a story that will captivate and inspire women and men, athletes and nonathletes, Klein shows us that if we turn over the "weird stones" on our path, the ones we usually ignore, we may find ourselves on an unexpected journey that will summon vitality back into our lives.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 12 customer reviews
I recommend this book heartily.
Carol Charkow
I found her writing style very easy to read and completely engaging.
Alan H. Kahn
Very engaging and thought provoking.
Sheila Bonenberger

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Carden on January 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
First off I will say that I am not a fan of boxing, despite the important historical and cultural impact that personalities in the sport such as Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis had during the last century. I've read too much about the corruption, hype and brutality that unfortunately has dogged certain segments of the sport since - well, the beginning of human history. However, from the whimsical cover to the final page, "Blows to the Head" is a beautiful, winning and openly personal meditation on the sweet science that convinced me how pure and fulfilling boxing can be in the right hands (no pun intended), and how life-affirming and positive it is for one incredible woman. Binnie Klein "turns over stones" and finds her "out of the box" self as she describes her fascinating personal journey of mind, body and spirit by taking up boxing at an age when many people are considering slowing down and working on Sudoku puzzles as a lifestyle.

Through a variety of compelling anecdotes, the author relates in intimate detail her rigorous training full of blood, sweat and tears with an amazing boxing coach whom she originally discovered through an AARP article, and who becomes a part-Angelo Dundee and part-shaman to her. However, this book contains a lot more layers in addition to describing a woman's personal heroine-quest accompanied by Everlast gloves. With incisive humor and a unique perspective, she relates how she spied a pair of boxing gloves on a wall, and among other circumstances those gloves not only helped to open up to her a luminous new world of personal fitness, strength, and colorful personalities, but also a new-found interest in history and her family's genealogy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alan H. Kahn on January 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Being a speed bag enthusiast, the cool cover of this book caught my Eye. The early Vaudeville days had many great speed bag performers, including many females. But alas, too few pictures exist that show them. So this cover is a gem. I figured I'd give the book and the author a chance to tell me how boxing changed her life.

And I am glad I did! Inside is a powerful life story about an amazing woman that awakens to her love of boxing in her mid fifties, and gives it a go. Starting from scratch she chronicles her foray into a classic boxing training regime, doing perfect justice to the pain, sweat, injuries, fear of being hit and the colorful cast of characters that surround the inner world that is boxing. But it is more than a boxing story, This author is a highly educated Psychotherapist, incredibly observant of her own behaviors and the human conditions around her. The stories and insights of the books cast of characters is an eye opening walk through some history of the times that few may know, but all should appreciate. I found her writing style very easy to read and completely engaging. Speckled with humor and insights into humanity that proves her degree in psychotherapy was money well spent. What I most admire is the fact that she pays homage and absolute respect to everything that is boxing, including it's history, the trainers, the fighter (Male and Female) and the fans. She clearly loves the sport and the people in it. However, I say again, This is NOT a book so much about Boxing as much as the effect it can have on the lives of those who live it. As a boxing fan myself I whole heartedly recommend this book. The story is interesting and well written, so if you care little for boxing or boxers this book will still provide you with a few solid hours of enjoyable reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By sandmeistress on October 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Binnie Klein is a fabulous writer and memoirist, and as she takes you through her process of discovering, in middle age, her desire to take up a sport that many consider violent--well, let me just say that you go right along with her, willingly, happily, cheering for her every step of the way. The things she discovers about herself, about her heritage, about her family will blow you away and give you a deeper understanding of so much about our culture that you may never have known. Her engaging voice, her curiosity, her self-effacing generosity--and ultimately the widening of her heart to take in so much of life, will make your own heart sing. I loved this book and recommend it to everyone--even those, like me, who never thought much about boxing except perhaps to think, "Why do people want to go stand in a ring and hit each other?" Now I know--it's so much more than that.
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By davidmarks on September 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Binnie Klein’s Blows To The Head: How Boxing Changed My Mind, is a rabble rousing memoir, an intimate tour de force of insight, family and unity, of coping in an unsafe and unwelcoming world, all nestled inside the boxer’s ring, the gym’s womb- of Yiddish lore and nyc street gangs of finding one’s voice in the past and the present. Binnie takes the reader on a whirlwind rant of the streets, the mired gestation of old gymnasium odors and boxing bags, of conversations with romanticized boxers of yesteryear, and her own dreams and encounters with colorful, sensual and dynamic trainers and characters. Binnie Klein, the therapist, the spirited radio talk show host, takes us back in time, to a place where Jews came to america to flee persecution, but where they faced a tide of hate in a new and promised land. and where the expulsion of insecurities, frustration and anger was often compelled to safety and satisfaction through moments of glory in the ring ~ boxing, the great metaphor for survival-the social equalizer, of coping in an unforgiving land; and as a woman, all too often slighted by convention and tradition. Look inside her mind, her fantasies, her experience, her pain. Laugh out loud in absolute hysterics; take a private glimpse, with verve of outrageous humor, joy, culture, and sentimentality; divinely smooth writing, nearly a stream of consciousness at times. Delightfully funny and witty, this is a charmer of a read. Blows to the head is a heavyweight champion.
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