Summary and book reviews of Dust Bowl Girls by Lydia Reeder

Dust Bowl Girls

The Inspiring Story of the Team That Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory

by Lydia Reeder

Dust Bowl Girls by Lydia Reeder
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  • Published:
    Jan 2017, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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About this Book

Book Summary

The Boys in the Boat meets A League of Their Own in this true story of a Depression-era championship women's team.

In the early 1930s, during the worst drought and financial depression in American history, Sam Babb began to dream. Like so many others, this charismatic Midwestern basketball coach wanted a reason to have hope. Traveling from farm to farm near the tiny Oklahoma college where he coached, Babb recruited talented, hardworking young women and offered them a chance at a better life: a free college education in exchange for playing on his basketball team, the Cardinals.  

Despite their fears of leaving home and the sacrifices that their families would face, the women joined the team. And as Babb coached the Cardinals, something extraordinary happened. These remarkable athletes found a passion for the game and a heartfelt loyalty to one another and their coach--and they began to win.

Combining exhilarating sports writing and exceptional storytelling, Dust Bowl Girls takes readers on the Cardinals' intense, improbable journey all the way to an epic showdown with the prevailing national champions, helmed by the legendary Babe Didrikson. Lydia Reeder captures a moment in history when female athletes faced intense scrutiny from influential figures in politics, education, and medicine who denounced women's sports as unhealthy and unladylike. At a time when a struggling nation was hungry for inspiration, this unlikely group of trailblazers achieved much more than a championship season.

New Recruit
Chapter 1
February 1930

Doll Harris crouched in ready position, took a deep breath, and focused on the basketball now in enemy territory. More than anything, she wanted the ball back. Doll's high school team, the Cement Lady Bulldogs, was battling its archrival, the Fletcher Lady Wildcats, for the Southwest Oklahoma district championship and the right to play in the regional tournament. Doll was a senior and the Bulldogs' star forward. The game, in its final seconds, was tied, 28–28. The hometown crowd of 350 leaped to their feet when the Bulldog guards fought hard for the ball, the rubber soles of their Converse high-tops rendering sharp chirps with every move. The referee, expecting the tangle of players to commit a foul at any minute, held his whistle ready.

"Get the ball to Doll, you all," the pep squad chanted.

"Ball to Doll!" the crowd joined in.

helped her to guide shots magically over the rim and into the basket. Doll made almost half of the ...

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Reviews

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Iā€™m giving Lydia Reeder's Dust Bowl Girls, about a 1930s women's amateur basketball team and their gristly coach, high praise. From me ā€“ a person who closes her eyes and ducks when a ball is thrown to her ā€“ this is significant indeed. But I was immediately taken by Coach Sam Babb, Reeder's distant relative, who devoted his life to women's basketball and to developing a trophy winning women's basketball team during the early years of the Great Depression.   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

Full Review (755 words).

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Media Reviews

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

[L]ike other good sports histories, this one allows us to sit in the stands and watch a forgotten era when times were tough, odds were long, and underdogs rose to the occasion.

Publishers Weekly

[A] surprising underdog story ... They demonstrated the perseverance necessary to overcome the political and financial difficulties facing women in sports ... Engaging storytelling

Kirkus Reviews

Sports fans and general readers alike are sure to find the story both worthwhile and entertaining. A heartwarmingly inspirational tale.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Equal parts social history and sports legend come to life ... Of special interest for students of women's studies and a strong contender for a film adaptation. With high appeal to sports fans and historians, this hidden gem of a story deserves a place in all public library collections.

Author Blurb Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy
A thrilling, cinematic story. I loved every minute I spent with these bold, daring women whose remarkable journey is the stuff of American legend.

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Beyond the Book

Feed Sack Fashion

Women Wearing Feed Sack DressesIn Dust Bowl Girls, Lydia Reeder notes that many, if not all, of the young women who lived on their families' Oklahoma farms wore dresses made from flour or feed sacks. At the time, before the ready availability of store bought or bakery products, farm women bought their flour in sacks of 25-100 pounds. vintage fabricsFeed came in hundred pound sacks. These sacks were commonly made of cotton. So when funds for clothing became tight, thrifty and inventive homemakers used everything at hand, including the fabric left empty after the flour or feed had been used up. They began cutting the sacks into patterns for clothing, including dresses.

Flour Employee with SacksAfter the manufacturers learned of this creative recycling of their sack, they began including instructions for...

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