By Brenda Barrera
Kathryn Bertine might not be a household name, but if you support girls + sports + books, she’s someone to know. Not only is Bertine a professional cyclist, but she has competed at a professional level in: ice-skating, triathlon, and rowing. In addition to being a versatile athlete, she’s also an activist – fighting for equality on and off the playing field. But wait . . . she’s also a documentary filmmaker capturing the “passion, pitfalls, and power of women’s professional cycling” in her documentary film, “Half the Road.” And, oh yeah, add author of two books, AS GOOD AS GOLD (2010) and THE ROAD LESS TAKEN: LESSONS FROM A LIFE SPENT CYCLING (2014).
I was fortunate to meet Bertine at a screening of her documentary, “Half the Road” at the College of William & Mary a few years ago and treasure my autographed copy of THE ROAD LESS TAKEN. Today marks the start of September and that means many teachers and students are trading their flip-flops for laced up shoes and heading to the classroom instead of the seashore. Here’s a gentle reminder: settling down with a good book doesn’t have to end with summer vacation.
THE ROAD LESS TAKEN is a thoughtful, provocative collection of essays and espnW features that are short, making for an easy read. Bertine shares lessons gleaned from her years as a professional cyclist, a tough existence with meager pay; where the stresses of finding a homestay and couch to sleep on in a foreign country are typical for female professional cyclists. Many chapters revolve around the sport of cycling and trying to qualify for a spot at the Olympic games, but several are about personal, everyday experience that young adult readers and older will enjoy.
A few of my favorite chapters include the humorous, “A Cyclists Letter to Santa,” and a thoughtful reflection on Lance Armstrong in, “The Guy in Yellow” where I found myself nodding in agreement. How is it possible to feel so much dislike and yet empathy for someone who is so polarizing? She shares her perspective as a cyclist, a female cyclist, a journalist, and a person and sums it up: he is a flawed human being. I agree.
You don’t have to squeeze into spandex bike shorts and maneuver cobblestones to appreciate the moving chapter, “The Bonus Wife,” which shares how she fell in love with her husband, newly widowed and the treatment by mutual friends that led her to study how society deals with grief. Many chapters explore aspects of inequality in sport, but an inspirational article on retired NBA player, Adonal Foyle, teaching ‘growl power’ to young girls – that is, take charge, be confident, and go after what you want.
Bertine reveals her vulnerabilities alongside unwavering passion for sport, equality, and tackling life’s many hills. There’s plenty of ‘growl power’ in these pages to inspire readers to attack athletic challenges and move beyond everyday obstacles.
For more information:
Kathryn Bertine website: www.kathrynbertine.com