Book Talk: Fierce

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Title: Fierce: How Competing for Myself Changed Everything

Author: Aly Raisman

Released: 2017

Goodreads Synopsis: Discover Aly Raisman’s inspiring story of dedication, perseverance, and learning to think positive even in the toughest times on her path to gold medal success in two Olympic Games–and beyond.

Aly Raisman first stepped onto a gymnastics mat as a toddler in a “mommy & me” gymnastics class. No one could have predicted then that sixteen years later, she’d be standing on an Olympic podium, having achieved her dreams.

Aly’s road to success was full of hard work, perseverance, and victories, but not without its hardships. Aly faced many obstacles, from naysayers who said she’d never make it in gymnastics to classmates who shamed her for her athletic body to a devastating betrayal of trust. Through it all, Aly surrounded herself with supportive family, friends, and teammates and found the inner strength to remain positive and believe in herself. Now, in her own words, Aly shows what it takes to be a champion on and off the floor, and takes readers on a behind-the-scenes journey before, during, and after her remarkable achievements in two Olympic Games–through her highest highs, lowest lows, and all the moments in between.

Honest and heartfelt, frank and funny, Aly’s story is enhanced with never-before-published photos, excerpts from the personal journals she’s kept since childhood that chronicle memorable moments with her teammates, and hard-won advice for readers striving to rise above challenges, learn to love themselves, and make their own dreams come true.

My Goodreads rating: 5/5 (I always find it difficult to ‘rate’ someone’s life story, but on the writing/content front, this was a genuinely well-written book).

I’ve read a few books by some of the former elite US gymnasts, and Aly’s is by far my favorite. There is an honesty to this book that is very unique and special. Aly gives you enough background to her life to let you into her story, but not so much that it feels like too much irrelevant information. Throughout her stories, you can see that she recognized the intensity of what she was doing, but it is evident that she had a deep passion for her sport. She looked up to the individuals before her, and she took that inspiration and paved her own path.

Aly does touch on her experiences with sexual abuse and the situation surrounding USA Gymnastics, but I’ll leave that story to her. What she brings from that and other experiences is her encouragement to others. She speaks of her own struggles with body positivity, and she emphasizes the importance of self-care. It is clear that she has learned–and is still learning–how to balance her sport and athleticism with her mental and emotional health.

I think what I loved most about Aly’s story was seeing the support she had around her. Her parents clearly worried about her, but they always encouraged her in being true to herself and continuing her work because of her love for it. They gave her such a strong foundation, and it’s clearly a major reason she has such a good head on her shoulders. I was also impressed with her coach, Mihai Brestyan. Even though he was tough and pushed her when she needed it, it was evident he had her best interests at heart. It seems to me that he was a positive influence on her career.

As far as the writing goes, this book is written very well. It doesn’t feel like rambling facts or unnecessary storytelling, and you can feel Aly’s voice coming through the narrative. I really enjoyed reading this book, and I can see why Aly is a top player and positive leader for the sport.

-Chelsy

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