From Publishers Weekly
Professional tennis players today can earn millions of dollars on the tour and off the court, but that was not the case 50 years ago when Gibson and Buxton were two of the top women's tennis players in the world. Coming from widely divergent backgrounds (Gibson from a poor black family in Harlem, Buxton from a well-to-do Jewish family in London), the two hooked up in the mid-1950s and became tennis partners and lifelong friends. While Gibson is certainly the better known of the two, Buxton led an interesting life in her own right, and Schoenfeld does a terrific job of capturing not only the individual personalities of Gibson and Buxton, but also the spirit of the time in which they played. Both were trailblazers, and although Gibson had the more difficult road to travel, fighting to overcome racism, sexism and financial concerns, Buxton was often snubbed in English tennis circles because of her religion. Still, it is Gibson, perhaps the best female athlete of her time, who is the star of Schoenfeld's often poignant work. Gibson worked hard to become a tennis champion, but her inability to earn a living from the sport plagued her throughout her life, forcing her to engage in some madcap business schemes. Schoenfeld's is an evenhanded portrait of Gibson (whose description is not always a flattering one), and his book is an important contribution in spreading the legacy of Gibson, a woman worth remembering.
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For an athlete whose accomplishments were comparable to those of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, it's surprising how little the sports world knows about Gibson, an African American who broke tennis' severe color barrier in 1950, then won singles titles at the French Open, the U.S. Open, and Wimbledon as well as several Grand Slam doubles championships. Where Robinson's gifts flourished through a stoic dignity, Gibson's were realized through the brashness of her personality. ("You guys aren't that good," she typically told one pair of doubles opponents at the umpire's chair.) But there was also Gibson's British alter ego: her Jewish doubles partner, Buxton, who was equally forthright in overcoming her own barriers but who brought to Gibson's superb game a much-needed sense of measure. Freelance sportswriter Schoenfeld perhaps tries a little too hard to conjoin Gibson and Buxton--their tennis partnership was relatively short lived--but still gives these two players, and their relationship, their due. Expect media attention, especially for the multicultural context. Alan MooresCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved