Brace for Impact

Dial. May 2022. 416p. ISBN 9780593241370. $27. MEMOIR
In this debut memoir, Montesanti (creative writing, Univ. of North Texas) describes roller derby as a terrifying but necessary leap. After growing up in the conservative Midwest with a toxically perfectionist mother, Montesanti struggled with persistent self-doubt, an eating disorder, and lingering guilt about her sexuality, she writes. Then a move to St. Louis for her MFA offered the chance to join the city’s top-ranked Arch Rival derby team and push beyond her boundaries. Montesanti was initially apprehensive about her lack of derby or skating experience but threw herself into the sport’s rough-and-tumble aspects and open queer environment, hoping that the acceptance she found would patch over the wounds in her self-image. After a broken leg interrupted Montesanti’s derby career, her long struggle to recover physically also allowed her the reflective space to begin to grow beyond her mother’s influence and to bring the boldness of the derby world into her daily life.
VERDICT An uplifting memoir of slow work towards self-acceptance, and of the healing and support Montesanti found in roller derby. Montesanti effectively mixes difficult self-reflection with lighter tales (derby recruitment, team practices, even a climactic trip to RollerCon), though some readers might wish there was more on-the-track action.
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