A KIND OF GRACE: The Autobiography of the World's Greatest Female Athlete by Jackie with Sonja Steptoe Joyner-Kersee

A KIND OF GRACE: The Autobiography of the World's Greatest Female Athlete

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Three-time Olympic gold medalist Joyner-Kersee, with Sports Illustrated editor Steptoe, delivers an autobiography that outshines much of the dismal competition. Track star Joyner grew up in the impoverished city of East St. Louis, playing basketball and running track despite family hardships and community hostility to girls' athletics, and going to UCLA on an athletic scholarship (Joyner-Kersee makes good use of her UCLA history education; aspects of her life--her father's employment troubles and her own athletic opportunites, for instance--are skillfully placed in a sociopolitical context). Her parents divorced soon after she left home. Her mother died of a rare bacterial infection, and her death is wrenchingly described, as is the author's painful decision to take her mother off life-support. She is honest about her family--her problems with her father's hard drinking and bullying, and her complex relationship with her strong-willed husband and coach, Bobby Kersee. Her brother, Olympic gold medalist Al Joyner, and his wife, Florence (""Flo Jo"") Griffith Joyner, eventually stopped using Bobby as their coach; oddly, Joyner-Kersee leaves this break unexplained. Readers are reassured that everyone has moved on and gotten over it, but one can't help wanting to know what happened. Flo was widely quoted at the time as saying that Bobby had a ""cultlike"" coaching style. Did she really say that? We'll never know. Also frustrating is Joyner's tendency--shared by many other athletes--to present the most banal personal revelations as wisdom worth sharing with others: ""Today might look gloomy, but tomorrow will be bright"" is one such pearl. Despite some omissions and lapses into pseudo-inspiration, this is frank and lucid, and presents an intimate picture of a star athlete and her sport.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1997
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Warner