In her debut memoir, jockey Harris tells how she beat the odds to become the “first African American woman in Chicago racing history to win a race and only the second in U.S. history.
By 1999, when the author was 32, her life had spun out of control. Her son was in foster care, and she couldn't afford medical treatment to control her bipolar disorder. Working at odd jobs and living in a car, she had hit rock bottom. After a relatively privileged childhood in California, she suffered her first manic attack as a teenager and was briefly hospitalized. Her life began a downward spiral with recurring episodes, and she entered a common-law marriage with a would-be musician that ended with him having custody of their two children. A short fling with a Hollywood casting director left her with a third child. After years of drifting—with her father taking custody of her son—she found work on a horse farm in Orlando and began her recovery. In a Hollywood film, the story would end with a fade-out of her triumphant comeback in 2007, when—now a 40-year-old apprentice jockey—she and the beaten-down horse she was riding won a prestigious race. In real life, however, there was no such fairy-tale happy ending. She had overcome many obstacles, but racism and prejudice against a woman trying to enter a traditionally male field still made it difficult for her to find horses to jockey. Offered a horse with an injured shoulder, she accepted, only to be thrown on the ground and seriously injured. By 2009, she was again homeless and in the grips of mental illness as she struggled to remain in the racing game. Fortunately, she moved to Wilmington and found work at the Delaware Park race track, which sponsored a mental-health program. There, she has received effective medication and is participating in group therapy.
An inspirational story with a happy ending (hopefully permanent).