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A Review by Phil Arnold...
on February 13, 2007
Imagine living a fairly quiet life, having come out of the "dog eat dog" corporate world and moved to laid-back Austin, Texas. A real, enjoyable change has taken place in your life. However, one day you go and see a flat track roller derby match, and you are hooked so much by what you have seen, you decide to try out for roller derby.
This is just the beginning of a personal journey by author Melissa Joulwan, aka: Melicious, who describes in her book Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track an amazing adventure that brought an admitted nerd into team sports.
Readers find out that Melicious in fact worked very hard to get as good as she could, and loved skating with her teammates, although after her first regular season, felt there was nothing really satisfying about the team sport aspect of this new activity. That situation would change, and so readers share in that pursuit that saw the formation of skater-owned and operated flat track roller derby, and eventually the formation of well over 150 roller derby leagues throughout the world.
I found this book to be difficult to put down, although Ms. Joulwan's descriptions are so vivid at times I had to slow down and savor her writing. For a roller derby fan like me, it was a thrill to find out how the revival of roller derby in this decade came about. It was fascinating to hear stories like how her first pair of roller derby skates used for tryouts were just the wrong color (white) and so her husband Dave drew an anarchy symbol on them in magic marker to make them derby acceptable.
It is the first of many wonderful stories in this book. Highlights include the story of how a major injury in an uninsured venue, drove a split in the organization she was skating in, and eventually led to a skater-run league that would be the pattern for most emerging roller derby leagues in the next four years. It is also satisfying to read about her many friends and co-league skaters, all of whom seem to have very unique backgrounds that came together in this passionate love of an emerging sport.
And for Melicious, after four years of skating, and being a fan at the first National Flat Track Championship in Tucson, Arizona, a real transformation had taken place. The former nerd and sometimes roller skater had become a teammate, and a sports participant. She had gone from an empty feeling on team sports early in her derby experience, to understanding the artistry and strategy in other team sports.
This book is a must read for fans of roller derby, but I also think it is an excellent read for sports fans in general. As a sports fan, and a former player and coach in sports, this book reminded me of the unique qualities of team sports. Winning games and derby bouts may be nice, but the discipline of sports and the friends who support the effort are invaluable. These teammates and friends are truly treasures of life and I think Ms. Joulwan has done an excellent job of communicating this in Rollergirl: True Tales from the Track.