We’ll all be glued to our favorite electronic devices on July 23rd to see the G.O.A.T. Simone Biles. She made history again recently by winning her seventh national women’s-all around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Fort Worth, Texas. She is a powerful role model especially for young Black girls. When young people see a reflection of themselves in various career choices, it gives them a sense of real possibilities they can consider. While her physical strength and agility is usually the topic of focus, this post will showcase a curated list of books by or about her and, some additional insights on her life outside of the gym. Included are some books on other black female gymnasts that were trailblazers before Biles. To date, Biles has written one book herself which was released in 2018 under the name, “Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, a Life in Balance.” The others are by various biographers for adults and children. After her predicted win at the upcoming Olympics, the number of books available on black females in gymnastics is sure to explode.
Dianne Durham, the first Black national gymnastics champion died at the age of 52 in Chicago this year. Though there are no books found that are exclusively about her, there is video footage. Her debut performance in 1983 to Biles’ highly decorated status demonstrates what is possible in a sport once completely void of African Americans, in 27 short years.
Watching Biles’ 2018 interview with Megan Kelly in a youtube video called, “Olympian Simone Biles: Larry Nassar ‘Took A Part Of Me That I Can’t Get Back’ | Megyn Kelly TODAY” was a sneak peak into the depth of her inner strength. Competing in the Olympics while living with the memory of being one of over 250 women abused by Team USA doctor Larry Nassar seems an impossible experience to bear let alone recover from. A word she used to provide a clue as to how she navigated through the storm, was in her ability to “compartmentalize.” This is a mental martial art she must be expert at. She said that she’d buried the memory so deep that at one point she had to remind herself that it happened to her. She also mentioned looking forward to the 2020 Olympics which we just witnessed in 2021 (due to the pandemic) with her creation of 4 super slam dunk gymnastic moves named after her: two on floor (Biles and Biles 2), one on vault (Biles), and one on beam (Biles).
Biles' success has spilled over into developing a clothing line. This powerhouse has a leotard clothing line announced June 15, 2021 named after her. The video of the promotion is on youtube as well.
Biles' accomplishments are phenomenal given she was diagnosed as a child with ADHD and, that she was adopted. Both adversities that she could have reasonably and understandably used to bow out or change her mind. But look at her go straight not just to the top but through the top.
Everyone’s life was affected during the 2020 pandemic. While Biles was prepared to perform in the 2020 Olympics, she had to wait until 2021. Certainly keeping mentally and physically fit had to be her primary focus. Biles has stated that she used the year to focus on her mental health. The most memorable take-aways from her interview was that she:
This proved a useful research project to locate books on Black gymnasts. Prior to Biles, the pickings are slim. Thankfully her star shines so brightly that she is lighting the way for many more to come after.
My penchant is always to lean toward reading about someone's life in their own words. If you have to pick just one, start with "Courage to Soar" by Simone Biles now in paperback. Though released in 2015, it is still promoted widely on her website and has captured memories just before her world recognized greatness. In other words, when she knew it for herself.
Podcast: Simone Biles' coach Cecile Landi on how the team reset after reconvening when the pandemic waned a bit.
As always, I appreciate that you have read through this blog post. I hope that you’ve become curious to seek out more books about Simone Biles and other Black athletes. We ask that you consider purchasing your books from our Black owned business, Afriware Books, Co. If there is a title you’d like to purchase that is not mentioned here, or could not be found on the website, feel free to email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Youtube Video, from Free Library of Philadelphia, "Simone Biles | Courage to Soar"