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THE OTHER OLYMPIANS

FASCISM, QUEERNESS, AND THE MAKING OF MODERN SPORTS

A significant deep dive into the queer historical evolution and significance of transgender athletes in organized sports.

How transgender and gender-nonconforming athletes changed the face of early-20th-century sports history.

In his debut book, journalist Waters traces the histories of acclaimed European athletes who defied preset sexual boundaries and publicly transitioned their genders. Set against the backdrop of World War II, amid Hitler’s rise to power and the excitement of the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin, the distinguished Olympians the author profiles were all assigned female at birth but struggled with emerging gender dysphoria. Zdeněk Koubek, a Czech athlete, was born female, but “eventually he’d understand himself not to be,” as he initially rejected and then developed a love of competitive sprinting. Waters focuses mostly on Koubek’s journey toward gender self-expression, which coincided with other athletes—e.g., self-described “tomboy” Mark Weston, an English javelin, discus, and shot-putting champion, and eminent cyclist Willy de Bruyn. Waters seamlessly integrates several other celebrated athletes into his report and cites the many challenges facing trans competitors, including the Nazi takeover of the queer community in 1930s Germany, where “trans and intersex people were judged to be ‘asocial’ [and] people on the margins of gender and sexuality were arrested, imprisoned, and, at times, dispatched to their deaths.” The bureaucratization of gender in sports manifested in the 1936 creation of Olympic sex-testing policies as a method to keep transgender athletes from participating in competitive sports. Waters further addresses these gender bias regulations in his conclusion, revisiting the life of a fully transitioned Koubek, who “dumped all the medals he’d won” in protest of verification testing. Densely factual, impeccably researched, and written with dramatic flair, this book intensively probes gender bias in the Olympics amid the rise of European midcentury fascism and the epic challenges to gender essentialism.

A significant deep dive into the queer historical evolution and significance of transgender athletes in organized sports.

Pub Date: June 4, 2024

ISBN: 9780374609818

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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UNGUARDED

Basketball fans will enjoy Pippen’s bird’s-eye view of some of the sport’s greatest contests.

The Chicago Bulls stalwart tells all—and then some.

Hall of Famer Pippen opens with a long complaint: Yes, he’s a legend, but he got short shrift in the ESPN documentary about Michael Jordan and the Bulls, The Last Dance. Given that Jordan emerges as someone not quite friend enough to qualify as a frenemy, even though teammates for many years, the maltreatment is understandable. This book, Pippen allows, is his retort to a man who “was determined to prove to the current generation of fans that he was larger-than-life during his day—and still larger than LeBron James, the player many consider his equal, if not superior.” Coming from a hardscrabble little town in Arkansas and playing for a small college, Pippen enjoyed an unlikely rise to NBA stardom. He played alongside and against some of the greats, of whom he writes appreciatively (even Jordan). Readers will gain insight into the lives of characters such as Dennis Rodman, who “possessed an unbelievable basketball IQ,” and into the behind-the-scenes work that led to the Bulls dynasty, which ended only because, Pippen charges, the team’s management was so inept. Looking back on his early years, Pippen advocates paying college athletes. “Don’t give me any of that holier-than-thou student-athlete nonsense,” he writes. “These young men—and women—are athletes first, not students, and make up the labor that generates fortunes for their schools. They are, for lack of a better term, slaves.” The author also writes evenhandedly of the world outside basketball: “No matter how many championships I have won, and millions I have earned, I never forget the color of my skin and that some people in this world hate me just because of that.” Overall, the memoir is closely observed and uncommonly modest, given Pippen’s many successes, and it moves as swiftly as a playoff game.

Basketball fans will enjoy Pippen’s bird’s-eye view of some of the sport’s greatest contests.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982165-19-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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THE BREAKS OF THE GAME

The game is professional basketball, as represented by the Portland Trail Blazers' 1979-80 season—a microcosm, in Halberstam's wide-angle rendering, of the commercialization of all that was once genuine in American life. . . at the cost, often, of human lives. (In pro basketball, of some of the best and brightest black lives.) The book has a problem with sprawl—not only because the central chapter, "The Season," goes on for 300 pages. Halberstam has contrived a narrative as seamless and fluid and intermeshed as basketball itself—with the result, in the first half at least, that lines of development don't stand out (and much has to be reiterated). But in time all the interesting things Halberstam learned about new-breed-millionaire owner Larry Weinberg, personnel manager Stu Inman ("Are you really telling me"—to Weinberg—"that you know more than us?"), coach Jack Ramsay ("the system came first"—and the blacks craved more freedom), about Blazer superstars and comers and might-have-beens, do add up—intellectually and emotionally. And what appear first as insights—the shifting of franchises from blue-collar basketball cities to white-collar market-places, the physically-punishing, career-shortening longer seasons, the frequent shuffling of players (college basketball, now, has more continuity), their overnight rise from ghetto or shack to (dissatisfied) superstardom—become episodes in an ongoing, unfinished drama. Among the highlights: maverick great Bill Walton has defected to San Diego, charging medical maltreatment—on the part of two of his closest associates, the Blazer doctor and trainer. (The issue is painkillers: he had compromised his principles so that, like his teammates, he could "play hurt"—and like others, injured himself further.) To compensate the Blazers for his loss, NBA commissioner O'Brien assigns Kermit Washington to Portland—despite Washington's handwritten plea to be allowed to stay in San Diego. (It would be his fourth city in three years—worse, it would mean, after a freak fistfight, "proving myself again.") Maurice "Luke" Lucas, the Blazers' remaining star and most intimidating presence, wants to be traded—with a no-cut contract, he'll sit out most of the season. "Unabashed square" and unexceptional player Larry Steele is going into a ninth, record Blazer season—before it's over, he'll have six knee operations to try to hold onto his job. Billy Ray Bates—"a child of the feudal South," now a Maine Lumberjacks guard (one of the great personal stories)—will join the Blazers and become NBA Player of the Week. And ABC's Roone Arledge, stung by the NBA switch to CBS into building up rival attractions, will have his revenge: the last championship playoff game will be shown on TV at midnight. Says Luke: "Can you imagine Kareem and Magic and Julius, and we're still second-class citizens?" No, you don't need to be a fan to start with—but you might be before you finish.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 1981

ISBN: 1401309720

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1981

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