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Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women's Olympic Team

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“Fast Girls is a compelling, thrilling look at what it takes to be a female Olympian in pre-war America. Rich with historical detail and brilliant story-telling, the book follows three athletes on their path to compete – and win – in a man’s world.  Brava to Elise Hooper for bringing these inspiring heroines to the wide audience they so richly deserve.”—Tara Conklin, New Y “Fast Girls is a compelling, thrilling look at what it takes to be a female Olympian in pre-war America. Rich with historical detail and brilliant story-telling, the book follows three athletes on their path to compete – and win – in a man’s world.  Brava to Elise Hooper for bringing these inspiring heroines to the wide audience they so richly deserve.”—Tara Conklin, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Romantics and The House Girl Acclaimed author Elise Hooper explores the gripping, real life history of female athletes, members of the first integrated women’s Olympic team, and their journeys to the 1936 summer games in Berlin, Nazi Germany. This inspiring story is based on the real lives of three little-known trailblazing women Olympians.  Perfect for readers who love untold stories of amazing women, such as The Only Woman in the Room, Hidden Figures, and The Lost Girls of Paris. In the 1928 Olympics, Chicago’s Betty Robinson competes as a member of the first-ever women’s delegation in track and field. Destined for further glory, she returns home feted as America’s Golden Girl until a nearly-fatal airplane crash threatens to end everything. Outside of Boston, Louise Stokes, one of the few black girls in her town, sees competing as an opportunity to overcome the limitations placed on her. Eager to prove that she has what it takes to be a champion, she risks everything to join the Olympic team. From Missouri, Helen Stephens, awkward, tomboyish, and poor, is considered an outcast by her schoolmates, but she dreams of escaping the hardships of her farm life through athletic success. Her aspirations appear impossible until a chance encounter changes her life. These three athletes will join with others to defy society’s expectations of what women can achieve. As tensions bring the United States and Europe closer and closer to the brink of war, Betty, Louise, and Helen must fight for the chance to compete as the fastest women in the world amidst the pomp and pageantry of the Nazi-sponsored 1936 Olympics in Berlin. 


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“Fast Girls is a compelling, thrilling look at what it takes to be a female Olympian in pre-war America. Rich with historical detail and brilliant story-telling, the book follows three athletes on their path to compete – and win – in a man’s world.  Brava to Elise Hooper for bringing these inspiring heroines to the wide audience they so richly deserve.”—Tara Conklin, New Y “Fast Girls is a compelling, thrilling look at what it takes to be a female Olympian in pre-war America. Rich with historical detail and brilliant story-telling, the book follows three athletes on their path to compete – and win – in a man’s world.  Brava to Elise Hooper for bringing these inspiring heroines to the wide audience they so richly deserve.”—Tara Conklin, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Romantics and The House Girl Acclaimed author Elise Hooper explores the gripping, real life history of female athletes, members of the first integrated women’s Olympic team, and their journeys to the 1936 summer games in Berlin, Nazi Germany. This inspiring story is based on the real lives of three little-known trailblazing women Olympians.  Perfect for readers who love untold stories of amazing women, such as The Only Woman in the Room, Hidden Figures, and The Lost Girls of Paris. In the 1928 Olympics, Chicago’s Betty Robinson competes as a member of the first-ever women’s delegation in track and field. Destined for further glory, she returns home feted as America’s Golden Girl until a nearly-fatal airplane crash threatens to end everything. Outside of Boston, Louise Stokes, one of the few black girls in her town, sees competing as an opportunity to overcome the limitations placed on her. Eager to prove that she has what it takes to be a champion, she risks everything to join the Olympic team. From Missouri, Helen Stephens, awkward, tomboyish, and poor, is considered an outcast by her schoolmates, but she dreams of escaping the hardships of her farm life through athletic success. Her aspirations appear impossible until a chance encounter changes her life. These three athletes will join with others to defy society’s expectations of what women can achieve. As tensions bring the United States and Europe closer and closer to the brink of war, Betty, Louise, and Helen must fight for the chance to compete as the fastest women in the world amidst the pomp and pageantry of the Nazi-sponsored 1936 Olympics in Berlin. 

30 review for Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women's Olympic Team

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kate Quinn

    Read an ARC for a cover quote; enjoyed hugely!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    It’s been said that people must walk so that others can run. Three girls, Betty Robinson, Helen Stephens, and Louise Stokes, surmounted the odds to be Olympic runners in the 1936 Olympics, and far from walking, they gave it their absolute all to demonstrate their sprinting prowess in the 100-meter dash and relay. A slow-build story that follows their parallel journeys from the very first Olympics with women in 1928 to their team presence during the charged 1936 Berlin Olympics, Elise Hooper reve It’s been said that people must walk so that others can run. Three girls, Betty Robinson, Helen Stephens, and Louise Stokes, surmounted the odds to be Olympic runners in the 1936 Olympics, and far from walking, they gave it their absolute all to demonstrate their sprinting prowess in the 100-meter dash and relay. A slow-build story that follows their parallel journeys from the very first Olympics with women in 1928 to their team presence during the charged 1936 Berlin Olympics, Elise Hooper reveals the idiosyncrasies of Olympic training against a backdrop of high school or college life and the heavy weight of the Great Depression. Between a dearth of knowledge in sports and history, I had no expectations of knowing who these women were. Nevertheless, each had distinctive and valuable stories to tell, necessary to the overarching narrative of women breaking the glass ceiling of elite track and field. Hooper humanizes their grapple with finances, family, politics, racial tensions, sexuality, and relationships as they relentlessly strove to the Olympics. My greatest critique is of the dialogue of each girl, which frequently felt stylistically indistinguishable from one another or heavily scripted. For much of the novel, I appreciated the unadorned descriptions, but I found myself emotionally detached from some intense and disturbing scenes. Met with either blatant or underhanded skepticism, Betty, Helen, and Louise persevered past the naysayers, well-articulated by various newspaper clippings that interspersed the chapters. I know sexism was atrociously rampant in the Dark Ages before womens’ rights and feminism gained traction, but Fast Girls showed just how oppressive societal perceptions could be. Add in a dose of intersectionality with race, and don’t even think about it. Jesse Owens might have been a star, but Louise encountered every barrier of being both woman and black as the American Olympic Committee and coaches constantly undercut her opportunities to run. In a solid look at both sexism and institutional discrimination, I was gratified to see these women overcome their personal struggles. Despite having explicit talent and athleticism, they were made out as underdogs by authority figures, so each triumph on their personal journeys felt all the more gratifying. They were unflinchingly optimistic, which perhaps veered inauthentic at times. Still, I don’t mind that occasional, heavy dose of inspiration, allayed by acknowledging that Fast Girls ultimately remains a loose fictional interpretation. Many thanks to Netgalley and HarperCollins for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joan Happel

    When we think of the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany, it is the great Jessie Owens who springs to mind. However, the lesser known, yet equally fascinating story of the Women’s Olympic team is what Elise Hooper writes about in her new novel. Tracing the lives of three amazing women, Betty Robinson, Louise Stokes and Helen Stephens, this is the story of women’s Olympic track and field from the 1928 games in Amsterdam, followed by the 1932 events in Los Angeles, and culminating in the drama that unfo When we think of the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany, it is the great Jessie Owens who springs to mind. However, the lesser known, yet equally fascinating story of the Women’s Olympic team is what Elise Hooper writes about in her new novel. Tracing the lives of three amazing women, Betty Robinson, Louise Stokes and Helen Stephens, this is the story of women’s Olympic track and field from the 1928 games in Amsterdam, followed by the 1932 events in Los Angeles, and culminating in the drama that unfolded in Hitler’s Germany at the 1936 games. Betty Robinson is the presses sweetheart at the 1928 Olympics and wins a gold medal but suffers a horrendous set back after a plane crash before the 1932 games. Told she may never walk again; she fights back against great odds to make it to Germany in 1936. Louise Stokes is a young black woman in Massachusetts, whose talent is discovered by the high school track coach at her school. Going to bat for her, he manages to get her the training she needs to qualify for the games in LA. There she and another black female runner face discrimination and are not allowed to compete. Still she perseveres to qualify for Germany. Finally, Helen Stephens, is a poor farm girl from rural Missouri, who also is discovered by her local track coach. She is the newcomer to the 1936 team. The novel alternates between these three women and their inspiring stories. Fighting against the extreme sexism and racism of the time, they never-the-less are able to fight for their right to participate along side the male athletics. Their achievements are made all the more amazing because of the myriad of obstacles put in their way. Told again and again that they should be home looking for husbands and having babies, they achievement are all the more impressive. Excellently researched and deftly written, this was a joy to read. Truly an inspirational tale and one that will be popular with book clubs. I highly recommend this one for fans of athletics, women’s fiction, biographical fiction, historical fiction or those interested in the history of the Olympics. A very apt story for our present time as well. Thank you to William Morrow Paperbacks and NetGalley for the e-ARC.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Christi M

    When someone thinks of the 1936 Olympics, most people will associate it with Jesse Owens set against a tense political landscape. They wouldn’t be wrong – he won 4 gold medals and became a legend. But beyond that women were still fighting for acceptance as athletes as many felt that a woman’s place was at home or believed in the myth that too much exercise would hinder a woman’s ability to have children. Fast Girls is a historical fiction novel that follows 3 women who participated in the 1936 B When someone thinks of the 1936 Olympics, most people will associate it with Jesse Owens set against a tense political landscape. They wouldn’t be wrong – he won 4 gold medals and became a legend. But beyond that women were still fighting for acceptance as athletes as many felt that a woman’s place was at home or believed in the myth that too much exercise would hinder a woman’s ability to have children. Fast Girls is a historical fiction novel that follows 3 women who participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The story starts several years prior, in 1928, where Betty Robinson is a competitor in athletics (track and field). Prior to 1928 women did not compete in track and field events and even then there were only 5 events they could enter. But back at home there were other girls that were being inspired by this such as Helen Stephens and Louise Stokes. Through the years leading up to 1936 we follow each of their stories, but also learn and become engaged with a few other women athletes, such as Tidye Pickett who was the first African American woman to not only go to the Olympics, but be able to compete. We follow their struggles to train and be coached, gender discrimination, racial discrimination and personal trials – all leading up to the 1936 games, where religious discrimination was evident as well in Germany. Due to WWII, the Olympics were not held again until 1948. Several of the girls who might have gone onto compete again in 1940 were not able. At the end there is an Afterword giving the reader details on each of the girls featured or mentioned in the story. While I enjoyed the subject and history of the story, the style or format of the book didn't win me over. The dialogue or plot points felt awkward and stilted at times that left me feeling a little unengaged. Thanks to Netgalley and HarperCollins Publishes for the ARC and opportunity to provide an honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    Some of the summer Olympics most exciting events are the track and field short distances. Most of us take for granted the participation of men and women of all races in these competitions. However, women’s presence in the summer Olympics was a rarity in 1928, which is where Elise Hooper’s historical fiction, Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women's Olympic Team, begins. The book was too slow getting out of the starting blocks for me. It was more like a marathon than a sprint, to be honest. There w Some of the summer Olympics most exciting events are the track and field short distances. Most of us take for granted the participation of men and women of all races in these competitions. However, women’s presence in the summer Olympics was a rarity in 1928, which is where Elise Hooper’s historical fiction, Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women's Olympic Team, begins. The book was too slow getting out of the starting blocks for me. It was more like a marathon than a sprint, to be honest. There were quite a few characters to meet, and many are introduced one right after another by first name only, so I had trouble keeping them straight for awhile. It really wasn’t until after the 1928 Games that I began to settle in and enjoy the book a bit more. I give credit to Ms Hooper for bringing these dedicated athletes to life. She introduces us to them in ways that makes them almost feel like family. Betty Robinson was a remarkable young woman who overcame a tremendous obstacle to get to the Olympics in 1936. Helen Stephens, a tall speedster from Missouri, nicknamed “the Fulton Flash,” is portrayed as a youngster whose brashness belies her lack of confidence about her worthiness as a loveable person. Then there are the two young black women, Tidye Pickett of Chicago and Stokes. These two were so talented, but because of the color and politics, they struggled for equality, even among their fellow athletes and coaches. Others who are less prominent are Stella Walsh, a Polish American woman who eventually opted to run for Poland, and Babe Didrikson, whom some may know as a very talented multi-sport athlete. Perhaps my favorite character, however, is Caroline Hale, who unfortunately, did not really exist. I tried looking her up, but found nothing. I learned that she is a composite of several real-life athletes. I was looking forward to tell my sister-in-law that she shared her name with an Olympic pioneer! I couldn’t help thinking of my junior high and high school days in GAA (Girls’ Athletic Association) before the enactment of Title IX, which required equal opportunities in education, including "reasonable provisions considering the nature of particular sports." This was in 1972 when I was just entering college, so imagine what these ladies had to endure trying to compete on boys’ teams. They were subject to ridicule and discrimination. When the 1936 Olympics rolled around, Hitler was coming into power in Germany. Jesse Owens was already a famous track star, and Louise and Tidye hoped for their chance to shine as well. However, there was talk of a boycott because of Hitler’s treatment of Jews on the German team and in Berlin. Would the athletes take a stand by refusing to compete, or would they instead show Hitler that they would not be intimidated by his propaganda about a “master race”? Elise Hooper did thorough research on the characters, and I thought she captured the atmosphere of the times quite well. As a sports fan, I’d have liked more play-by-play during the meets and less distraction about the parties and so on, but she did a good job describing what must have been tense diversions in Berlin, particularly. She portrays these women as all-around human beings, and we don’t always get that point of view. It’s refreshing to read women’s history from this perspective. 3 stars

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Burnett

    Fast Girls shines the light on three little-known American female Olympians who doggedly pursue their dreams to compete in the Nazi-sponsored 1936 Berlin Olympics, the first integrated Olympics. These women must each overcome their own personal obstacles and roadblocks in order to have their time on the Olympic track and defy those who think women (and people of color) should not compete. Chock full of historical details and stories about various Olympians and the grand event itself, readers wil Fast Girls shines the light on three little-known American female Olympians who doggedly pursue their dreams to compete in the Nazi-sponsored 1936 Berlin Olympics, the first integrated Olympics. These women must each overcome their own personal obstacles and roadblocks in order to have their time on the Olympic track and defy those who think women (and people of color) should not compete. Chock full of historical details and stories about various Olympians and the grand event itself, readers will love the stories of these strong, determined women. Listen to my podcast at https://www.thoughtsfromapage.com for fun author interviews including one with Elise; for more book reviews, check out my Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/thoughtsfro....

  7. 5 out of 5

    The Nerd Daily

    Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Laura Glassman Fast Girls tells a remarkable story based on the lives of three young women: Betty Robinson, Helen Stephens, and Louise Stokes, who were aspiring professional runners and who ultimately worked their way towards a place on the 1936 US Olympic track team for the Olympics in Berlin. Author Elise Hooper draws readers into an absorbing novel about the lives, trials, and successes of each of these women as they overcame obstacles, worked Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Laura Glassman Fast Girls tells a remarkable story based on the lives of three young women: Betty Robinson, Helen Stephens, and Louise Stokes, who were aspiring professional runners and who ultimately worked their way towards a place on the 1936 US Olympic track team for the Olympics in Berlin. Author Elise Hooper draws readers into an absorbing novel about the lives, trials, and successes of each of these women as they overcame obstacles, worked towards their goals, supported each other, and ultimately made history. Read the FULL REVIEW on The Nerd Daily

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie DeMoss

    This is a well written and interesting true story of the 1936 women's Olympic track team, which was the first time the women's track team was integrated. Elise Hooper relates history in an interesting and engaging way, much like Laura Hillenbrand did in Seabiscuit. The book is filled with interesting anecdotes about each member of the team and how they came to be there, and shows how they made their mark on history. This was at the same time Jesse Owens was showing Adolph Hitler that an African This is a well written and interesting true story of the 1936 women's Olympic track team, which was the first time the women's track team was integrated. Elise Hooper relates history in an interesting and engaging way, much like Laura Hillenbrand did in Seabiscuit. The book is filled with interesting anecdotes about each member of the team and how they came to be there, and shows how they made their mark on history. This was at the same time Jesse Owens was showing Adolph Hitler that an African American was the fastest man in the world. If you love history, Olympic history, pre WWII history, and/or women's fiction and nonfiction, you will enjoy this book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    DeAnn

    4 Olympic Stars This is an interesting tale based on women who competed in the Olympics from 1928-1936. I was struck by how far we’ve come in treating women more equal to men than during these times. However, our work is not done as women athletes still don’t get the same respect and support at the collegiate or professional level. I was almost incredulous reading that at this time, men really thought that it was too hard physically and mentally for women to compete and no one wanted to see pictu 4 Olympic Stars This is an interesting tale based on women who competed in the Olympics from 1928-1936. I was struck by how far we’ve come in treating women more equal to men than during these times. However, our work is not done as women athletes still don’t get the same respect and support at the collegiate or professional level. I was almost incredulous reading that at this time, men really thought that it was too hard physically and mentally for women to compete and no one wanted to see pictures of them exerting themselves. Often these women couldn’t even race in high school and there was an uproar if they trained with the boys. We hear about Betty Robinson who won gold in 1928 and then battles her way back after a terrifying plane crash. We also read about Louise Stokes, one of the early pioneering black women in track and field. I was appalled at the treatment she got at my Brown Palace hotel – being forced to sleep in an attic room meant for servants when the other Olympians got regular rooms. Also, the coach wouldn’t race her on the relay team and picked slower white athletes to compete. Helen Stephens is also profiled, an amazing athlete, who at one point was accused of being a man because she was so dominant on the track. There are some chilling scenes at the 1936 Olympics with top Germans – including Hitler – who wanted to meet the athletes. Jesse Owens has a starring role of course. I really enjoyed reading about these ground-breaking women. If you enjoyed “Boys in the Boat” I think you would like this one. Thank you to NetGalley, Elise Hooper, and Harper Collins/William Morrow for the chance to read a complimentary copy of this one.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    I can see I'm in the minority of reviews for this book, but this one just did NOT hold my attention at all. I think it was not written well (it was so very "basic" and uninteresting in terms of writing), it was not well told, it was a little bland and boring all around to be honest. Sure it was based on real people, and their struggles and all were real and I get that, I respect that, but this book didn't do all that justice in my opinion. This is one I would pass up. It was no Boys in the Boat I can see I'm in the minority of reviews for this book, but this one just did NOT hold my attention at all. I think it was not written well (it was so very "basic" and uninteresting in terms of writing), it was not well told, it was a little bland and boring all around to be honest. Sure it was based on real people, and their struggles and all were real and I get that, I respect that, but this book didn't do all that justice in my opinion. This is one I would pass up. It was no Boys in the Boat which I LOVED- now that was well paced and gripping and well written. I hate to say it when I know how much work goes into writing books, but I just could barely read this one. I have too many other good books waiting for me... I won my copy from a Goodreads Giveaway, all opinions are my own.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Heather Webb

    FAST GIRLS is an inspiring tale set in a time when the world viewed women as fragile and excitable, but Hooper’s main characters, three tenacious, true-to-life young women comprising the 1936 women’s track and field Olympic team, won’t be subdued by societal expectations. Instead, they follow their hearts and their dreams to Olympic gold. This book was vibrant in its detailing and riveting in its story, and at times, I wanted to cheer. Like Louise, Helen, and Betty, I raced to the finish line. H FAST GIRLS is an inspiring tale set in a time when the world viewed women as fragile and excitable, but Hooper’s main characters, three tenacious, true-to-life young women comprising the 1936 women’s track and field Olympic team, won’t be subdued by societal expectations. Instead, they follow their hearts and their dreams to Olympic gold. This book was vibrant in its detailing and riveting in its story, and at times, I wanted to cheer. Like Louise, Helen, and Betty, I raced to the finish line. Highly recommended.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mandy White

    What an inspiring book! Listened to this on audio while I was working today and really enjoyed it. Learnt alot about athletes in that time and what women had to deal with. Definitely with a read

  13. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    In 2020, we were supposed to be treated to a classic favorite of everyone's - the summer Olympics slated to be held in Tokyo, Japan but unfortunately something we've become very familiar with called COVID-19 put an end to this, and postponed it to summer 2021. At first I felt disappointed, but then I came across historical fiction author Elise Hooper's novel Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women's Olympic Team, and after reading a quick synopsis of it, knew it had to be added to my 2020 list of In 2020, we were supposed to be treated to a classic favorite of everyone's - the summer Olympics slated to be held in Tokyo, Japan but unfortunately something we've become very familiar with called COVID-19 put an end to this, and postponed it to summer 2021. At first I felt disappointed, but then I came across historical fiction author Elise Hooper's novel Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women's Olympic Team, and after reading a quick synopsis of it, knew it had to be added to my 2020 list of books. This novel tells the story of three American women (Elizabeth "Betty" Robinson, Louise Stokes and Helen Stephens)'s journeys to attempt Olympic glory but more importantly, to display their athleticism and patriotism for their home country (United States of America). Most reviews I've read about this novel, focus mostly on the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany but they forget that this novel actually covers three summer Olympics (1928 in Amsterdam, 1932 in Los Angeles and finally culminates in 1936). During my reading of this great novel, I was very interested to learn that during all three Olympic years that these women had to constantly deal with discrimination of both racism as well as gender. As an example of discrimination of gender, during Betty's journey to qualify for the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, she was quite a "fast girl" in high school. She was indeed so fast that she received a special invitation to train with the boys' track team from her coach, but the principal of her high school said: "Betty cannot train with the boys' track team. In fact, the Illinois State Athletic Association prohibits interscholastic competition for girls in track and field events for good reason; it is well documented that women cannot be subjected to the same mental and physical strains that men can withstand". On the other topic I brought up, there was also the discrimination of racism, but I am so proud that these women stood up to these and let nothing stand in their way of being the best they can be and give it their all for their country on an international level. After all, aren't the Olympics supposed to bring us together as a world and celebrate one another's accomplishments and cheer them on to bring out the best in everyone? I provide you this quote which I think sums up the IOC (International Olympic Committee) very well: "The IOC strives to provide an event that demonstrates goodwill, athletic greatness, and peace between the advanced nations of the world". If you're looking either for a fix for your summer Olympic hole left this year, or perhaps an inspirational read because of whatever else you have going on this year, I promise you, you won't regret picking this up and finding yourself cheering on these wonderful women who I didn't know too much about (if anything really) to being the best they can be, and showing the world that yes, no matter if you're male, female, black or white - you are a human being and deserve to have your very own "spotlight". Kudos to the author for shining a very big spotlight on the "lesser known piece of history". I sincerely hope that this author writes more historical fiction novels on other women/male athletes as there are so many more out there that deserve their fun in the sun too so to speak :) Hope you enjoyed reading my review, and look forward to seeing your comments should you decide this is for you as well.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gill Paul

    Writing dual narratives is hard enough, because you have to try to keep the readers’ interest equally invested in both storylines, but in Fast Girls, Elise Hooper has achieved this feat with three compelling narratives. It’s based on the real-life stories of three young women and their journeys to the controversial 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Betty has already won gold in 1928 but then suffers life-changing injuries in an accident that seem to threaten her future as a runner. Helen comes from Writing dual narratives is hard enough, because you have to try to keep the readers’ interest equally invested in both storylines, but in Fast Girls, Elise Hooper has achieved this feat with three compelling narratives. It’s based on the real-life stories of three young women and their journeys to the controversial 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Betty has already won gold in 1928 but then suffers life-changing injuries in an accident that seem to threaten her future as a runner. Helen comes from an impoverished background, and she is tall and ungainly, awkward in her skin. Louise is black and has grown up encountering prejudice at every turn, so she has no illusions about how hard it will be to achieve her ambition to run in Berlin. Each woman’s story is told in separate chapters, interspersed with newspaper articles indicating the sexism that was rife, with many arguing women had no place in track and field events. The treatment of the black athletes is especially shocking, but all based on fact. I found myself rooting for all three from early on. I also loved the descriptions of running. I’m not a runner myself but could feel from Elise Hooper’s descriptions the freedom of unleashing the power of your body, the sensation of speed, the drumming in your ears and the focus on the finish line. Once the story reaches Berlin, there’s the chilling atmosphere of fascism and some very real dangers to contend with. This is a captivating novel, and a great achievement. Highly recommended!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Fast Girls is a novel. A disclaimer at the beginning states that it is fictional. And yet, Hooper uses the names of real people and real places and real events. It is a fine line to walk - making up a story about what real people may have said, may have thought, even describing what their deepest emotions and secret longings may have been. Hooper is a good writer and she does a good job of bringing us into the world of running competitions in the late 1920's and 1930's. She focuses on three runn Fast Girls is a novel. A disclaimer at the beginning states that it is fictional. And yet, Hooper uses the names of real people and real places and real events. It is a fine line to walk - making up a story about what real people may have said, may have thought, even describing what their deepest emotions and secret longings may have been. Hooper is a good writer and she does a good job of bringing us into the world of running competitions in the late 1920's and 1930's. She focuses on three runners: Helen Stephens, Betty Robinson, and Louise Stokes, exploring each girls home and family life in the years before the 1936 Olympics. She makes us root for them and rage against the injustices they faced. Although it all happened more than ninety years ago, the battles they fought are still raging today: women's rights, racial injustice, even LGBT issues are part of the story of these three women.Elise Hooper does a good job of melding historical facts with imagined behavior, as far as readability is concerned. But I think she crosses the line a few times, imagining more than she should, even changing facts to make a better story. For instance, in the afterward she admits that Helen Stephen's father wasn't as mean as she made him in the novel. She made Stephens and another farmer in Helen's town into a caricatures of mean and ignorant hillbillies. When real people are used in fiction, I believe writers have a responsibility to be fair and honest as much as possible.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Parkinpj

    Brava to Elise Hooper for bringing these inspiring heroines to the wide audience they so richly deserve.”—Tara Conklin. No, Ms. Conklin, they so richly deserve their actual stories being told in exciting ways by authors using primary sources and citing them. They deserve to have a proper scholarly study of how they defeated racism, sexism, and slights against their sexuality in order to win. If Hooper really wanted to honor the lives of these women, Fast Girls, would have been a work of non-fict Brava to Elise Hooper for bringing these inspiring heroines to the wide audience they so richly deserve.”—Tara Conklin. No, Ms. Conklin, they so richly deserve their actual stories being told in exciting ways by authors using primary sources and citing them. They deserve to have a proper scholarly study of how they defeated racism, sexism, and slights against their sexuality in order to win. If Hooper really wanted to honor the lives of these women, Fast Girls, would have been a work of non-fiction. They don't deserve this sensationalized, view-from-the-scandalized-eye piece of fiction. We know it can be done. Books like, "The Boys in the Boat," and "Seabiscuit," come to mind. Brown and Hillenbrand have the talent to write non-fiction that is every bit as compelling, even more so, than historical fiction. Instead, the readers of Fast Girls suffer through entirely fabricated news articles, letters, and memos. Certainly, actual quotes from primary sources would have been much more interesting. We need our young women to see that women have always made history. So frequently women were written out of history, especially when the greatness of a man might be reduced in the telling. In the short bio offered on Goodreads, we learn that when Ms. Hooper is not writing historical fiction, "...she’s in her classroom making American history and literature interesting for high school students." What we don't need is history, well documented history, reduced to the equivalent of baby food in order to, "make it more interesting." Not so long ago fiction was fiction. One may have done period research and created characters to tell a story in a way that was authentic. Now we have authors clinging to the term, historical fiction, yet using the names of people who lived the history but taking liberties with the truths of these people, writing dialogue for these people. Author Elizabeth Chadwick states, “it is not about dumping all that knowledge and research into the text. That’s the last thing you want to do. Your aim is to entertain readers with a riveting story, not bore their socks off." This is one reader who thinks that if a bit of history was originally boring it wouldn't bear repeating. Therefore, if something is so interesting that it deserves researching it can not be boring. One conclusion we can arrive at then is that there is no knowledge or research that is boring, only authors who lack the skill to make it, ahem, riveting. It's fiction or it's non-fiction, readers. We must demand that authors make a choice: They are either writing a work of fiction or they are writing non-fiction. If the author finds the need to warn readers with a note such as we find at the beginning of, Fast Girls, - "Historical Note, all newspaper stories, letters, telegrams, and memos in this book have been created by the author and reflect the language and attitudes used to describe women athletes during their era," it should tell us that she herself knows the questionable territory she is in. Authors like these trade in that murkiness to sell books (Oh, but its based on a true story! Based on actual events!) well knowing that many readers won't research to find out what is factual and what is drivel. Indeed, many would say that they don't care. But a good many readers simply can't tell the difference. When readers can't tell the difference it isn't their fault but the fault of the author and the publisher flying his or her book under the mysterious flag, historical fiction. Just write fiction if you don't want to do the work of non-fiction. Don't sully the history of these women or the history they made by using their names. Such a thing should not exist. Betty Robinson (Elizabeth Schwartz), Louise Stokes, and Helen Stephens deserve so much, much more.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth (teacupsandfirereads)

    Fast Girls is a fascinating book that covers the trials, tribulations and triumphs of three women as they make their way to competing in and ultimately winning in track a track and field event at the in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Based on the true story of Betty Robinson, Helen Stephens, and Louise Stokes, it is full of great historical details and facts, it is evident it was well researched. This story started off at a good pace, but then seem to slow quite a bit. It started of Fast Girls is a fascinating book that covers the trials, tribulations and triumphs of three women as they make their way to competing in and ultimately winning in track a track and field event at the in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Based on the true story of Betty Robinson, Helen Stephens, and Louise Stokes, it is full of great historical details and facts, it is evident it was well researched. This story started off at a good pace, but then seem to slow quite a bit. It started off with Betty going to the 1928 Olympics and then spent the majority of the middle leading the group actually forming in which we get to know each of their histories a bit better. The three POVs though interesting and engaging did not meet until quite late in the book. I did enjoy the time getting to know them each individually, but I wished for more time with them as a team. Each girl comes from quite different backgrounds, each with their own personal trials and tribulations, on their way to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It’s no secret that women and people of colour were not treated well during this time period. There was significant push back for these individuals to take part in athletics and the Olympics. These women fought for their well-deserved spots in the Olympics and proved themselves as well deserving. Another moment in history was made. Though packed with historical detail, I found this book lacked detail related to the story telling. For this reason, I felt on the edge of the story for quite a bit of it. Overall, I really enjoyed this story as it taught me something about this time in history. At that it also showed me how strong these women were and how they never gave up on their dreams. I highly recommend this to fellow historical fiction lovers and those who enjoy the Olympics and want to learn about story females I athletics. Thank you to William Morrow Publishing and Edelweiss + for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Darla

    A fascinating tale of the grit and determination of some of the women who pioneered in the Olympic arena. Hooper deftly weaves figures like Betty Robinson, Helen Stephens, Louise Stokes, around the historic events of the Olympics in Amsterdam in 1928, Los Angeles in 1932, and the high-profile games in Berlin in 1936. All three women faced obstacles. The articles and letters documented by Hooper show a popular sentiment in society against women in athletic competitions. Louise also faced racial d A fascinating tale of the grit and determination of some of the women who pioneered in the Olympic arena. Hooper deftly weaves figures like Betty Robinson, Helen Stephens, Louise Stokes, around the historic events of the Olympics in Amsterdam in 1928, Los Angeles in 1932, and the high-profile games in Berlin in 1936. All three women faced obstacles. The articles and letters documented by Hooper show a popular sentiment in society against women in athletic competitions. Louise also faced racial discrimination and Helen was abused as a child. As we read their stories, we see their athletic gifts shining through; polished by discipline and dreams. The cover is a beautiful complement to the book and was reproduced from an old photograph. This is historical fiction at its best. For readers who enjoy Marie Benedict, Stephanie Thornton, and Kristin Harmel. Thank you to William Morrow and Edelweiss for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    Fast Girls, a novel based on the real lives of several of the US’ first female Olympians is a 5 ⭐️ Gold Medal winner. Fans of book The Boys in the Boat and the movie Race, about Jesse Owens, as well as runners and Olympic fans will love this book. I did. This well researched novel depicts the extreme gender and racial bias, as well as other heart wrenching challenges these women faced, yet were also a source of inspiration and motivation. Enhancing and moving along the story are the newspaper st Fast Girls, a novel based on the real lives of several of the US’ first female Olympians is a 5 ⭐️ Gold Medal winner. Fans of book The Boys in the Boat and the movie Race, about Jesse Owens, as well as runners and Olympic fans will love this book. I did. This well researched novel depicts the extreme gender and racial bias, as well as other heart wrenching challenges these women faced, yet were also a source of inspiration and motivation. Enhancing and moving along the story are the newspaper stories, telegrams and other correspondence the author wrote and creatively used in between chapters. Each of the characters was so interesting and many times I stopped reading to look up more information about them. Put this one on your July TBR. Thank you author Elise Hooper for the ARC. I was the lucky winner of a social media contest. 🏃🏻‍♀️🏃🏻‍♀️🏃🏻‍♀️🏃🏻‍♀️🏃🏻‍♀️🏃🏻‍♀️🏃🏻‍♀️🏃🏻‍♀️

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dawnny

    This was a compelling story about three women from different walks of life that compete in the Nazi sponsored 1936 womens Olympics. I loved the journey of these women. Their stories and determination. This was heart felt and inspiring. A compelling read. Dawnny Ruby Novels N Latte Hudson Valley NY

  21. 5 out of 5

    Davida Chazan

    4.5/5 stars. I'm titling my #bookreview "Women who Raced" and that is exactly what this book is about, and in the Olympics, no less. You can read my review on my blog now. https://tcl-bookreviews.com/2020/07/1... 4.5/5 stars. I'm titling my #bookreview "Women who Raced" and that is exactly what this book is about, and in the Olympics, no less. You can read my review on my blog now. https://tcl-bookreviews.com/2020/07/1...

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sophia

    As this was an Olympic year, I was eager to pick up a historical fiction centered around the Summer Olympics. I knew nothing about any of the women whose stories were told which I thought made Fast Girls are real gem of a find. The book starts out in 1928 when women’s track and field first became an Olympic event. Betty Robinson, one of the three stories in the book, was present and she was a catalyst for girls and women across the United States to start dreaming of their turn including Missouri As this was an Olympic year, I was eager to pick up a historical fiction centered around the Summer Olympics. I knew nothing about any of the women whose stories were told which I thought made Fast Girls are real gem of a find. The book starts out in 1928 when women’s track and field first became an Olympic event. Betty Robinson, one of the three stories in the book, was present and she was a catalyst for girls and women across the United States to start dreaming of their turn including Missouri farm girl, Helen, thinking herself an unwanted freak and Louise Stokes who grows up under the dreadful load of bigotry as a black girl living just outside of Boston. All three women have a hard road to the Olympics in their different ways. Their stories nearly broke my heart at all they had to face from the bigotry mentioned above to shattered legs that were never to walk again to childhood rape. And, always finances for all of them during Depression Era America leading up to WWII. Fast Girls took it’s time weaving a story for each girl who become women over the years leading up to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The author focused on their partly fictional stories, but didn’t leave them in isolation of what was going on in the country and the world of the time. They come from three different walks of life and that was portrayed rather well. Diversity was well-represented in these three- a woman with a disability, a woman of color, and a woman who preferred women (and these parts of the story were not fictional). But, as fascinating as their lives were, I confess that I really started to sit up and take notice when the story moved to Germany. What a frightful time! The American Olympic Committee barely passed the vote not to boycott, but then cut funds to the teams right after the trials because there was little money (Depression). Then the athletes were being pressured to boycott. They all decided that it would be better to win and win big than to stay away. But, while there, faced with the Nazi uniforms, troops everywhere, scared citizens, Swastikas, and other intimidation tactics that were all distractions and stressful. Yes, it got pretty exciting. The story was about women athletes and there was some focus on their events, but it doesn’t delve deep into the training side or really into the races themselves. The spotlight is definitely on them as people and drew out their early stories and ended right at the point of the Olympics with a brief summation after for their later years and helpful explanations of what had been fiction and what was true. All in all, it was a perfect read for what I wanted. A little long and lagging in places, but I can easily recommend it to those looking for sports history, Olympic theme, and/or women’s history stories. I rec’d this book from Net Galley to read in exchange for an honest review.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cyndi

    Elise Hooper explores the tenuous world of female Olympic athletes during Hitler’s reign. Three extraordinary U.S. female runners are spotlighted in this exquisitely written and highly entertaining work of historical fiction. The story depicts each of the women’s stories as they come into their own as athletes and finally meet together to join the 1936 Olympic track team held in Nazi-run Berlin, Germany. The women struggle to be their gifted selves and be accepted into a man’s world of athletics Elise Hooper explores the tenuous world of female Olympic athletes during Hitler’s reign. Three extraordinary U.S. female runners are spotlighted in this exquisitely written and highly entertaining work of historical fiction. The story depicts each of the women’s stories as they come into their own as athletes and finally meet together to join the 1936 Olympic track team held in Nazi-run Berlin, Germany. The women struggle to be their gifted selves and be accepted into a man’s world of athletics. Along with the excruciatingly abundant sexism that they all face, one must deal with overt racism as well. I can’t say enough good things about this. Like Liac Girls and the Tattooist of Auschwitz, this is a story that desperately needed to be told. This women were incredibly talented but had to sacrifice and endure so much in order to make their marks in a “white man’s world.” Not only was this a great story, but the writing is excellent - a definite page-turner. I predict that this will be a huge summer hit and will be especially popular with book clubs. 5 well-earned stars! Many thanks to Netgalley, William Morrow Paperbacks and Elise Hooper for my complimentary e-copy ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nina

    4.5 stars This story was exhilarating and captured my attention from the very beginning. I've always been fascinated by the Olympics, and it was interesting to read, learn, and reflect on how much the Olympics has changed over time. Set in pre-war America, the book primarily follows three athletes, Louise, Betty, and Helen, as they each aspire to compete in the Olympics in their respective track and field events. Unfortunately, the path to achieving this dream proves to be more complicated than th 4.5 stars This story was exhilarating and captured my attention from the very beginning. I've always been fascinated by the Olympics, and it was interesting to read, learn, and reflect on how much the Olympics has changed over time. Set in pre-war America, the book primarily follows three athletes, Louise, Betty, and Helen, as they each aspire to compete in the Olympics in their respective track and field events. Unfortunately, the path to achieving this dream proves to be more complicated than they could've ever imagined. Inspired by true events, these real-life women faced many challenges along the way, whether it was on the basis of sex and/or race. I hadn't known about these amazing athletes prior to reading this one, so it was inspiring to see how these female pioneers overcame the variety of obstacles that came their way. Themes of determination, sacrifice, and true grit were beautifully woven into this story. Thanks to William Morrow/HarperCollins for a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    I enjoyed Elise Hooper, a new author for me, doing a Facebook discussion about her new book and went out that day and purchased it! This was a wonderful read as we learn about what women went through in order to be accepted and allowed in sports, leading to the Olympics. I enjoyed each woman's story and plan to do some more research as I am very intrigued by the lives that they led. The author did a lot of research and you can tell she was very invested in this book. I had so many feelings while I enjoyed Elise Hooper, a new author for me, doing a Facebook discussion about her new book and went out that day and purchased it! This was a wonderful read as we learn about what women went through in order to be accepted and allowed in sports, leading to the Olympics. I enjoyed each woman's story and plan to do some more research as I am very intrigued by the lives that they led. The author did a lot of research and you can tell she was very invested in this book. I had so many feelings while I read about the struggles and hurdles that the different woman needed to overcome based on race or just based on their gender. This book reads very fast as you want to get to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and see what these woman can accomplish!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    This book was received as an ARC from HarperCollins Publishers - William Morrow Paperbacks in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. With Tokyo 2020 Olympics just around the corner, this is the perfect book to read to get inspired. I have heard of the fastest woman alive Olympic competition and knowing the stories of Betty Robinson, Louise Stokes, and Helen Stephens and what they had to do to overcome the adversity from the war and the This book was received as an ARC from HarperCollins Publishers - William Morrow Paperbacks in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. With Tokyo 2020 Olympics just around the corner, this is the perfect book to read to get inspired. I have heard of the fastest woman alive Olympic competition and knowing the stories of Betty Robinson, Louise Stokes, and Helen Stephens and what they had to do to overcome the adversity from the war and the Nazi organization. This race was not just for their careers but to shape history as we know it. When women were not among the chosen to compete in the Olympics, this story is more powerful than ever to learn about how history has been made and how ti shaped to the world we live in today. I know our community will really be inspired by this novel and will not get enough of it. We will consider adding this title to our Historical Fiction collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Susie Schnall

    I raced through this fast-paced novel on an exhilarating journey that begins with the humble beginnings of promising female runners and culminates in their inspiring and obstacle-filled quests for Olympic glory. I fell in love with the characters and their stories of determination, hope, friendship, grit, and the strength of the human spirit. Perfect for readers who want to be motivated by strong women and their pursuit of seemingly-impossible dreams.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    Fast Girls was a compelling, interesting, fact filled historical fiction about the 1936 women’s Olympic team. This book covers three athletes and their roads to the 1936 Olympics. It’s rich in history and is an emotional tale, as each woman has many roadblocks along the way. I loved that this was a look at a White woman, a gay woman, and a Black woman. It captured how each woman deals with social expectations, overcoming incredible odds personally and professionally to be on the Olympic team. I Fast Girls was a compelling, interesting, fact filled historical fiction about the 1936 women’s Olympic team. This book covers three athletes and their roads to the 1936 Olympics. It’s rich in history and is an emotional tale, as each woman has many roadblocks along the way. I loved that this was a look at a White woman, a gay woman, and a Black woman. It captured how each woman deals with social expectations, overcoming incredible odds personally and professionally to be on the Olympic team. I was absorbed in this story and fully rooting for each athlete. I loved that this was mostly build up to the actual event so that we get the full picture of what these women had to overcome to get to the actual Olympics. I wish that this had contained more during their time at the Olympics, as this was under Nazi territory and had some very interesting run-ins with major players. Overall, this was an addicting read featuring strong female leads. It was inspirational and incredibly well written. My thanks to @williammorrowbooks for the advance reader in exchange for my honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Beck

    Riveting tale about three female Olympians. Historical Fiction. This was a little slice of history I did not know much about and was very exciting to read about. In 1928, Betty Robinson competes in track and field in the Olympics. She is the first to compete. A woman has never competed before. This story will also tell of two other women who defy society's norms and compete in the Olympics. Hooper's attention to detail was unlike any other. I was glued to the pages and could not stop reading. For a Riveting tale about three female Olympians. Historical Fiction. This was a little slice of history I did not know much about and was very exciting to read about. In 1928, Betty Robinson competes in track and field in the Olympics. She is the first to compete. A woman has never competed before. This story will also tell of two other women who defy society's norms and compete in the Olympics. Hooper's attention to detail was unlike any other. I was glued to the pages and could not stop reading. For any historical fiction fan, this book is a MUST!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Candace

    These women, their accomplishments, their stories - this historical fiction work explored the lives of three women I had never heard of but should have, which is exactly what I love in this kind of book. I learned a lot from the book itself, and it spurred me to further research more on these women, their contemporaries, and the landscape of the U.S. between the World Wars, particularly examining gender and race. 5 stars for the subject matter, 4 stars for writing that compels the reader through These women, their accomplishments, their stories - this historical fiction work explored the lives of three women I had never heard of but should have, which is exactly what I love in this kind of book. I learned a lot from the book itself, and it spurred me to further research more on these women, their contemporaries, and the landscape of the U.S. between the World Wars, particularly examining gender and race. 5 stars for the subject matter, 4 stars for writing that compels the reader through a re-imagining of their experiences.

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