From Publishers Weekly
The first African-American woman to win both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, Gibson (1927–2003) was one of the most gifted athletes, male or female, of the second half of the 20th century. Despite her talent, which reached its zenith in the 1950s and early '60s, little has been written about her, save for her own 1958 autobiography, long out of print. Unfortunately, this effort from Gray, cofounder of the Althea Gibson Foundation, and journalist Lamb comes up short. While all the highlights of Gibson's rise—from the streets of Harlem to Wimbledon, from professional tennis to professional golf—are here, there's little insight into Gibson herself. This is particularly disappointing since Gray was a Gibson confidante who had the athlete's friends' and family's cooperation. Gray tends to gush about Gibson's many triumphs while largely overlooking her shortcomings. She even glosses over the difficult physical and financial situation Gibson faced during the 1990s after suffering a stroke, delivering a superficial look at this trailblazing woman. A more rounded and better written portrait of Gibson appears in Bruce Schoenfeld's The Match: Althea Gibson & Angela Buxton: How Two Outsiders—One Black, the Other Jewish—Forged a Friendship and Made Sports History
, which Amistad published in June. 40 b&w photos.
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Althea Gibson won both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open tennis titles in 1957 and 1958, achievements made all the more significant because, at that time, it was almost unknown for African Americans to compete in the sport. Gray, Gibson's longtime friend, relates a life filled with sporting excellence and personal struggles against racism. The compelling aspect of Gibson's battles as a black woman in a very white sport was the solitary nature of her crusade. Jackie Robinson had Branch Rickey, but none of Gibson's advocates possessed that level of personal clout or institutional leverage. Gray enumerates Gibson's journey through the sporting world, her money struggles, and her lack of endorsements. Gibson seldom took her frustrations public, internalizing them instead. In the years preceding her death in 2003 at 76, she was bitter and virtually penniless. Gray presents a balanced portrait of a life that had its storybook moments but was missing the happily-ever-after ending. Thought-provoking reading, especially for those who think the integration of sport was accomplished solely by Jackie Robinson. Wes LukowskyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved