The Road to Rollergirl How I Stopped Being a Roller Wannabe and Started Being a Rollergirl

23Sep/109

Roller Review: Down and Derby

In honor of Axles of Evil and Kasey Bomber blowing through my neck of the woods on their book tour, I present you with my review of Down and Derby: The Insider’s Guide to Roller Derby.

I was going to write this up last night and decided to sleep instead (bad girl!) but the derby gods forced me to change my mind when the radio segment about the book was the first thing that came on my iTunes this morning. Message received! The book first came on my radar when I was listening to NPR on my drive to work. I’ve already admitted my passionately nerdy love for public radio; as much as my childhood was spent aggressively avoiding the sports-mania that pervades Texas, I’ll listen to Frank Deford and be lulled by his enunciation into feeling like I know what he’s talking about. This time, I nearly choked on my chewing gum when I actually did know what he was talking about. It was a piece about his old friend Joanie Weston, once the highest paid woman in sports, and how happy she'd be to see the roller derby of today.  Near the end, it included a plug for the book. Immediately, I jotted the title down, somehow managing not to crash into an embankment.

Down and Derby: The Insider's Guide to Roller Derby

You know what else rhymes with "dirty"? Nerdy. Just sayin'.

Down and Derby is a great “Roller Derby 101.” It’s cheeky and fun, but at the same time smart and informative. It provides an introduction to the early days of the Leo Seltzer-era co-ed roller derby all the way up through the ill-fated Rollerjam (Alligator pits? Really?)   This is completely my bias because I am obsessed with the history of the Austin derby revival, but I think that they were a little too forgiving in the retelling of the rift and birth of flat-track derby (no surprise, because Axles skated with the banked-track league on the Holy Rollers). From every retelling I’ve heard, what happened to Whiskey L’Amour after her accident was a little more than a “perceived mishandling.” But I digress.

The book is more than just a history of the sport – it's a complete primer, sort of a 'Derby for Dummies.' It explains the rules of the game simply (or as simply as is possible), gives great profiles of players from around the world, and delves into gear and provides an intro to skates, which could be the subject of their own volume. Where it shines most is in capturing the spirit of the sport. The rules of the afterparty, derby wives, the realization that women just like you are rollergirls; I gotta say that I read some parts with a little catch in my throat because it captures the freakin' awesomeness that has drawn me into the sport.

In the section about dating and derby, there is one of the most beautiful pictures I've ever seen. I'd include it here, but it has to be the one roller derby picture that isn't online someplace and a scan just wouldn't do it justice. It's a dude and a rollergirl hugging, and he's picked her up and she's wearing her skates and holding her gear. It's just so sweet, it's the derby version of that iconic picture of the sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square. You can see the love for each other and the love of the game, and it makes me think of my wonderful and supportive partner (without whom none of this would be possible!!!). If you know this picture, or if you're the photographer (Stalkerazzi) please, please send me a copy! I could think of no better picture to be the desktop image on my computer at work so that I can just gaze at it all day and feel the derby love.

The book is also very helpful for those of us aspiring to be rollergirls, complete with a cute Cosmo-style quiz about whether you are derby material. It strikes the perfect balance between super encouraging and welcoming and realistic about how tough you have to be and how much work it is to make it in this crazy sport.

My rating: six wheels. Sassy, fun, accessible, this is a great one to lend to friends who wonder why they haven't seen you in months.

Comments (9) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Hi! I just found your blog and was so happy to see you already have a link to my blog on your page! I will return the favour!

  2. Hey there – glad to have you 🙂 I’ve been looking for good derby blogs, so if you have any suggestions, I’m happy to take a look. It’s a fun community, and I love reading about folks making their way in it. I also have a tumblr (the exact same thing, just “tumbled”) because there are about eleventy billion derby tumblogs that I want to keep up with and it’s easier to do if I have an account.

    and thanks! I love your blog too!

  3. Where do you find this book

  4. You can get it online from the sellers listed on the books website, or from the authors themselves when they have book store signings or booths at derby events. Your local independent bookseller might have it in stock, or be able to order you a copy. Happy reading!

  5. You can get it online from the sellers listed on the books website, or from the authors themselves
    when they have book store signings or booths at derby events. Your
    local independent bookseller might have it in stock, or be able to order
    you a copy. Happy reading!

    Edited because my links didn’t work 🙁 The book’s website is http://www.down-and-derby.com

  6. thanks for the link! i’m new to the sport and could use some feel goodness during my new girl trials & tribulations! 🙂

  7. bought it last night, finished it just now! thanks! 🙂


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