Pretty Good for a Girl: A Memoir

Pretty Good for a Girl: A Memoir

by Leslie Heywood

You are a girl and you want to show the world what you're made of, blood and steel and backbone, guts.

Running so all those eyes who see just a girl will know what you can do.

Until the exhaustion creeps into your bones, steals the fire from your face." Sports is the quintessentially American dream ticket out of an unhappy life.

For Leslie Heywood, champion high school miler, running was just such an escape, her feet flying away from a childhood filled with violence and enforced silence.

But the world of sports was still a world uncertain of whether it wanted to allow girls in, and Heywood ran headlong into the arms of her coach and then into a collegiate team whose standards for body-fat percentages and diets and training left every athlete struggling with eating disorders and serious injuries from overuse.

She almost ran herself to death-- until she had to learn to stop.Today Heywood still loves the challenge of sports, and she has found a way to live with a more balanced relationship to her body and the world.

"Pretty Good for a Girl" explores why girls need and want to participate in the American dream of competition and individual achievement; it also reveals the obstacles they still face-- such as traditional ideas about what girls should be, which disfigure their competitive spirit and limit their potential.

Heywood's gripping memoir brings the untold story of female athletic experience to vibrant life.

She gives us a road map of possibilities, a story of mistakes, courage, and determination that points to more positive ways for girls to experience themselves in the world of sport that is fast becoming their own.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Rating: 3.59
  • Pages: 220
  • Publish Date: September 14th 1998 by Free Press
  • Isbn10: 0684850702
  • Isbn13: 9780684850702

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I think my issues with Leslie Heywoods prose can be illustrated by this sentence from very early in the book: We get up at four in the morning, that hour like held breath just before the densest blackness starts to shift, just before the mourning doves take over that brief space of cool hanging in front of the sun, before it starts burning so tight you cant breathe. The first half of the sentence is actually nicely-phrased: that hour like held breath is quite evocative.

Local papers regularly sang her praises, her times were competitive on a national level, and her dreams went beyond high school, beyond college, to the Olympics. Although she depicts her younger self as not a little bit mean, as so focused on winning that she lost out on other things, she also talks of that time as the peak of not only her running career but also her life. With better coaches, a more modern understanding of training (that included things like rest days), an ability to nourish her body as well as simply hone it, I imagine her perseverance could have taken her a long way in the world of running.

Poetic and powerful, Heywood puts prose to the fighting feeling that burns in young female athletes when they constantly feel the need to prove their worth. The book sang when Heywood lets you enter her young mind as a track star. This felt like a tag on to me, but I grew up as an athlete after doctors started acknowledging that psychology is a piece of performance. I knew about these thingswe were talked to, advised to be careful, but in my experience, male coaches still have no idea how to speak with female athletes. Through her own story (a sexually abusive coach, unsupportive family, asshole male athletes, sexism, and training environments that ignore injury), Heywood shows how external factors and internal motivation get twisted and fucked up.

I am torn between two and three stars.

WHY I COULDN'T STAND THIS BOOK (AT FIRST): -the way Leslie would do anything, even hurt/put-down others, to win. -Through the beginning-middle of the book, Leslie constantly boasts on how attractive and drop-dead gorgeous she is including comparing herself to a Barbie about 10 times.

But of course, as Heywood's experience reveals, a girl athlete can never outrun her gender or her sexuality.

In my opinion, many memoirs that talk about anorexia can be triggering for people with eating disorders, no matter the general tone or outcome of the book. Gah.) But I do like this book a lot and I do relate to the author's telling of her story.

Its basically a list of events through her high school college years.

Describes the author's life as a conceited and driven high school track star and her running career in college before her body forced her to stop running competitively. She describes the events without a lot of commentary, without blaming people or justifying herself.