I’m a gym nerd, as we affectionately refer to ourselves on the gymternet. I have a tumblr appropriately full of tumbling gifs, a Patreon subscription to Lauren Hopkins’ Gymternet site, and a YouTube history full of old meets that I’ve watched a thousand times. So when I heard Aly Raisman (you may have heard of her? Two-time Olympian, multiple worlds medals, Dancing with the Stars competitor, and now fiercely outspoken activist against a culture of sexual abuse in her sport) had written a memoir – and that it was good – it went directly on my Christmas list.
Some gymnastics memoirs are frankly not worth the time – they can be the epitome of ghostwritten feel-good platitudes hurled onto the shelves to capitalize on The Moment. (And more power to the gymnasts for pulling in the money, especially because it’s hard to have a career as a gymnast!) They don’t often make for compelling reading. Fierce is the exception.
Aly Raisman (and her co-author, Blythe Lawrence), go into great detail about Aly’s childhood, training, career and what she plans to do next. They also compassionately and thoughtfully handle the issue of Aly’s abuse at the hands of (total monster) Larry Nassar, obviously accounting for their young adult audience but not sparing USA Gymnastics, the Karolyis, Nassar himself and everyone who should have had the wellbeing of gymnasts in mind. This is just a small part of the memoir, but Aly and Blythe also go into the culture and pressure of the national team training camps, USAG’s shortcomings as an organization, and where adults failed the gymnasts in myriad ways.
I really can’t overstate what a great book this is. It’s a must-read for gym fans, but also for anyone who’s been following the Larry Nassar trial (which should have been as big news as the Sandusky trial, but for some reason is still flying under the mainstream media radar). Aly’s personality comes through loud and clear, and manages to make the tone of the book uplifting and encouraging for her young adult audience while deftly pointing out where the shortcomings in the organization which manages her sport in the United States failed her and her teammates.