Books by Joan Ryan

MOLINA by Bengie Molina
Released: June 9, 2015

"A simply told, deeply moving story, quite unlike the usual baseball book."
An affecting memoir about a remarkable man who raised three sons to become baseball champions. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 8, 2009

"Ryan tells this touching story of survival, love and absolution as only a mother could, while sparing none of the journalistic details of a child in trauma and a family in grief."
Journalist Ryan (Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters, 1995, etc.) recounts the unexpected positive consequences of her son's traumatic brain injury. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

With the help of sportswriter Ryan (Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, 1995), the three-time National Coach of the Year and coach of the gold-medal-winning 1996 Olympic women's basketball team tells all. Perhaps as well known for her sober behavior and dress as for her coaching success, VanDerveer displays a side here—warm, determined, unabashedly flawed, and unselfconsciously upbeat—that should surprise those who have not followed her career since the beginning. VanDerveer relives the inequities that defined her playing career in the days prior to and just following the inception of Title IX; the grudging acceptance of the letter, rather than the spirit, of that law; and the none-too-subtle gender discrimination that still taints most sports. (After arriving in Atlanta for the Olympics, members of VanDerveer's team were told that they would receive just half the meal money of their male counterparts). Rather than catalog these setbacks and inequities, VanDerveer instead explains how her own doggedness and will to succeed helped her rise. The coach repeatedly (if unintentionally) demonstrates how her seldom-heralded ability to adapt enabled her to continually challenge and inspire Team USA—which compiled a 60-0 record en route to the gold medal. Since the games, VanDerveer has returned to Stanford, turning aside lucrative offers to coach in one of the two competing pro women's leagues. (During the off- season, she does television commentary on the WNBA.) However, judging from the impact she's had on her players' lives, VanDerveer has succeeded in making women stop listening to reasons why they can't or shouldn't play and start thinking about how they can be better players. (8 pages photos, not seen) (First printing of 60,000; author tour) Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1995

Ryan does for women's gymnastics and figure skating what Suzanne Gordon did for ballet a decade ago in Off Balance: The Real World of Ballet. Ryan, a sports columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, strips away the graceful facade to expose the harsh, often destructive, training regimes to which elite female gymnasts and figure skaters are subjected. She argues that these sports are distorted by ``our cultural fixation on beauty and weight and youth'' and the drive to win at any cost. ``Skating was God,'' says one mother of two former athletes. ``That's what we prayed to: First Place.'' Top athletes—pressed into competition as young as age six and reaching their peak in their teens—fall prey to a vicious cycle of eating disorders, exhaustion, stunted growth, injuries, burn-out—and sometimes death. Ryan presents horrifying tales of their physical and mental abuse at the hands of leading coaches: Christy Henrich died at 22, unable to conquer her anorexia years after quitting gymnastics; 15-year-old Julissa Gomez died after landing head first on the horse during a difficult vault that her coach knew gave her trouble. Craving approval, the girls are victimized by the very people who claim to care most about them: coaches such as Bela Karolyi (trainer of Olympic gold medalists Nadia Comenici and Mary Lou Retton), who berated a girl after forcing her to compete with broken toes; sporting associations that turn a blind eye to abuse and lack power to enforce standards of treatment; judges who value image over accomplishment; and worst of all, parents who expect their children to bring them glory (one father decided his daughter would be a figure skater before she was even born). Ryan calls for government regulation as a means of bringing these abuses under control. Never again, after reading Ryan's book, will one be able to watch those tiny, lithe silhouettes—whether on the ice or the balance beam—without thinking of what they may have suffered to get there. (author tour) Read full book review >