At the height of the Great Depression, Sam Babb, the charismatic basketball coach of tiny Oklahoma Presbyterian College, began dreaming. Like so many others, he wanted a reason to have hope. Traveling from farm to farm, he recruited talented, hardworking young women and offered them a chance at a better life: a free college education if they would come play for his basketball team, the Cardinals. Dust Bowl Girls explores that.
Despite their fears of leaving home and the sacrifices faced by their families, the women followed Babb and his dream. He shaped the Cardinals into a formidable team, and something extraordinary began to happen: with passion for the game and heartfelt loyalty to one another and their coach, they won every game.
Combining exhilarating sports writing and exceptional storytelling, Dust Bowl Girls conveys the intensity of an improbable journey to an epic showdown with the prevailing national champions, helmed by the legendary Babe Didrikson. And it captures a moment in American sports history when a visionary coach helped his young athletes achieve more than a winning season. (via Goodreads)
I received an eARC from the publisher,Algonquin Books, and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Confession: I’m really bad at basketball. The last time I played it was in 8th grade, and I accidentally broke the new kid’s nose. Seriously. It was terrible. I’m generally uncoordinated, but that was a feat of terrible proportions that surprised even my gym teacher. I wasn’t allowed to touch the ball anymore during class, which wasn’t such a punishment for me!
However, I’m always interested in other women doing great things – and the Dust Bowl Girls absolutely met that standard, so I knew I had to read the book.
The Dust Bowl Girls was a strange mix of histories – some of the stories were clearly recollections from the women featured in the book, some of them were vaguely researched histories of the university and the Chickasaw and Chocktaw tribes that live near the college. It also got very intricate with the different rules for women’s basketball, which was still really interesting for me, considering I don’t even remember the rules for men’s basketball.
There was some great research done for this book, and some really good writing. However, I thought the book would have done well to have split this more into separate sections – these girls’ stories, and the story of basketball in general.
The story really got bogged down for me in the constant switching, and I had a hard time keeping my interest up throughout the novel, which was disappointing for me.
For that reason, this is a three star read for me. I think if you had more interest in basketball’s inner workings, it might be more your thing. You can pick up a copy through Amazon, Indiebound or your other favorite bookseller!
~ Lydia Ellen Reeder is the grandniece of Sam Babb, the extraordinary basketball coach featured in Dust Bowl Girls. She spent over two years conducting research for the book and also wrote and narrated a short film about the Cardinal basketball team, currently on view at the Oklahoma Historical Society website.
As a former associate editor at Whole Life Times in Los Angeles and Delicious Magazine in Boulder, Colorado, Reeder has worked for many years as a copywriter and editor on behalf of corporate and organizational clients and most recently developed e-learning for a national nursing association. She lives in Denver with her husband and enjoys hiking in the mountains of Colorado. Dust Bowl Girls is her first book.
Disclaimer: All links to Indiebound and Amazon are affiliate links, which means that if you buy through those links, I will make a small amount of money off of it.