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Pretty Good for a Girl: A Memoir
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Pretty Good for a Girl: A Memoir

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  92 ratings  ·  22 reviews
"You are a girl. You are a girl and you want to show the world what you're made of, blood and steel and backbone, guts. So you start running. Running so all those eyes who see just a girl will know what you can do. Your legs take the hills, eat up the road, the sky, the birds, parts of your heart, strong through your chest and then your throat, stride by hungry stride. And ...more
Hardcover, 220 pages
Published September 14th 1998 by Free Press
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3.60  · 
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 ·  92 ratings  ·  22 reviews

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I thought that Pretty Good For A Girl would be right up my alley: a women’s-studies-y memoir about a young, female track star in the 1980s, soon after Title IX changed the landscape of high school/college sports in the US. However, while there are some gems of insight into what it means to be a female athlete, Pretty is too rambling and unstructured to be an enjoyable read.

I think my issues with Leslie Heywood’s prose can be illustrated by this sentence from very early in the book:
“We get up at
Heywood came of age when it was a constant battle for a girl to be taken seriously as an athlete, to not be 'just one of the girls'.

And she wasn't -- Heywood excelled in track and cross-country, regularly smashing records and priding herself on running with the boys' team. Local papers regularly sang her praises, her times were competitive on a national level, and her dreams went beyond high school, beyond college, to the Olympics.

This picture that Heywood paints of herself, though, it's neither
Jan 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Feeling a lot of feelings. Remembering practices punctuated by crying in my goggles, grateful for the mirrored design so the pain could be private. I read this book quickly and emotionally. I’ve read memoirs by Natalie Coughlin and Amanda Beard and another swimmer escaping my mind right now, but haven’t felt so understood (and less alone) until this book.

Poetic and powerful, Heywood puts prose to the fighting feeling that burns in young female athletes when they constantly feel the need to prov
Kevin J.
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: public-library
I am torn between two and three stars. The narrative was compelling enough to keep reading. Indeed, I finished in one uncommon thing for me to do. The lyrical prose and beautifully constructed sentences also kept me going. There is an illusion of her digging deep into herself, revealing hard earned truths. However, the message was as shallow as the author admitted to be.
Olivia Holtgren
May 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Maybe 3-and-a-half stars...

-the way Leslie would do anything, even hurt/put-down others, to win. For example: when Martha joins the Cross-Country team and is almost as fast as her, Leslie freaks out. She rants about how slow and ugly Martha is (both behind her back and to her face), ignores her, and gets seriously upset if newspapers even mention her name or if any of the XC guys talk to her.
-Through the beginning-middle of the book, Leslie constantly b
May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, sports-other
A vivid glimpse inside the sense of self that comes about from being, and from having been, a girl athlete. Some gorgeous writing and revealing insight into the stakes of sports for young women--beyond winning, how it is about maintaining a fragile sense of self, of protecting yourself from being just another girl, pretty or smart or whatever, but not that special. Sports can feel like a way out of gender, and out of a body construed as primarily sexual. But of course, as Heywood's experience re ...more
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: running
I don't know how many stars to give this book. I devoured it (I guess the pun is intended.) Leslie was a runner with anorexia as a teenager and college athlete. Now she is a bodybuilder and professor at SUNY Binghamton. There is a long, hard story (or stories) behind her eating disorder and compulsive drive to win. I am careful how many times I read this book because I can tend toward perfectionistic thinking sometimes and I can definitely be competitive. In my opinion, many memoirs that talk ab ...more
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
I didn't know it was possible to write a memoir with so little introspection or self awareness. Its basically a list of events through her high school college years. She never attempts to explain the events or her choices and doesn't appear to learn anything. Except for one high school coach, who doesn't get enough blame for his actions, and her health, all of the conflict is in her head. She talks about having to prove that she's not just a girl, but no one ever says that to her.

The prose is w
Sarah Rigg
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wouldn't have expected to enjoy a memoir from a woman jock to be this enjoyable, but she had great insights into body image issues and what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated field. I really enjoyed this.
Jun 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: sports
Describes the author's life as a conceited and driven high school track star and her running career in college before her body forced her to stop running competitively. The author had some awful things happen to her, though she was not an angel either. As a young woman, she believed that being a girl meant you don't matter, so she trained impossibly hard to prove herself by winning races until her body gave out. The writing, run-on sentences tending towards stream-of-consciousness, is not brilli ...more
Rebecca McPhedran
Dec 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Leslie Heywood is a professional body builder, and recovering from an exercise compulsion. All throughout high school (pre title IX), she was obsessed with being someone. Being the absolute best was her priority, and she wanted to train with the guys. She had the trifecta-food restrictions, over exercise, and the need to be the best. She was so obsessed with being the best, that her body couldn't take it any more, and it started to work against her. For her, the struggle has always been to prove ...more
Lauren Paloski
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book! I encourage any driven female who has ever had the strength to push herself beyond the expectations of others to read this! And, even still, any female who is looking to start pushing herself to find her place in this large world, should read this! It can be highly motivating.

The first few chapters of the book almost made me put it down in search for something else to read. After I made it past the first few, I could not put it down. While I have never been in actu
Feb 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The best book I have ever read, and will continue to read over and over. I'm not sure that everyone can understand or appreciate what it is like to be a female athlete in a "boys world". Anyone who doesn't understand her lines such as the "brief space of cool" has never willingly gone running or training at the crack of dawn when it seems like the whole world is still sleeping, or truly pushed their body until it feels like it just might break.

This book was suggested to me by my high school wom
mis fit
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: running
I really enjoyed this book, though I would say that it is not for everyone-- very emotional story and impassioned writing style. Running is a big part of it, but it is also about being a strong young woman and in a lot of ways having to pay a price for that. Heywood conveys what it feels like to be a really angry, headstrong, passionate, but also kind of desperate and hopeless teenager. Lots of interesting gender/sport/body stuff I haven't really thought about before.
Apr 06, 2008 rated it liked it
It was o.k. to read through once. I wouldn't read it again, however. It started out good, lost momentum. I didn't particularly care for her writing style. However, the athlete triad syndrome, and eating disorder stuff was somewhat interesting.
Elizabeth Brown
Jul 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
A quick read and interesting take on the toll of athletics on female self-esteem. The themes in this book show up in other things she's written, so if you read just one book I would suggest this one.
Rachel Gregory
Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book! Although I read this book as a teen, it's still relevant today. When your committed to a sport or lifting people give you a hard time for your dedication. When female cross fitters and body builders obtain muscle, people talk negatively. Great book for female fitness lovers.
Apr 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
A story that should be told more: the cost of driving yourself to be the ultimate athlete and the ultimate reclaiming of the self that must be done in order to heal.
Dec 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: women athletes
Shelves: non-fiction
A- Finally! A girl athlete memoir!
Jamie Bronstein
May 28, 2016 rated it liked it
I had to read this book for a class and I did in fact read it in a day, but by the end I was shaking my head at how little self-awareness the author had actually developed.
Jan 18, 2011 rated it liked it
book about a cross-country runner who finds it difficult to be a serious female athlete in the 70s. intense book, read it in 1 day. sports theme isn't really my thing.
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Leslie Heywood is Professor of English and Creative Writing at SUNY-Binghamton, where she was a 2009 recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activities. Interdisciplinary in focus, her areas are creative writing, gender studies, sport studies, science studies, and environmental studies.