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Room – 2010

Sometimes other diversions provide resonance to my reading. Last week I watched SMILE, a Michael Ritchie film that I’d seen several times back when watching old movies meant late night broadcast stations, not TCM. I remember how hip I thought that movie was, because it acknowledged that beauty and charm were just as much part of women’s competitive framework as doing well in track or basketball. Knowing what I do now about life, women (and women’s pictures), I was naive. I was also in the first generation of girls that went to school after Title IX was enacted in US schools. Equal opportunities in athletics, back then, seemed a new, honest and honorable route to personal achievement.

Sometimes other diversions provide resonance to my reading. Last week I watched SMILE, a Michael Ritchie film that I’d seen several times back when watching old movies meant late night broadcast stations, not TCM. I remember how hip I thought that movie was, because it acknowledged that beauty and charm were just as much part of women’s competitive framework as doing well in track or basketball. Knowing what I do now about life, women (and women’s pictures), I was naive. I was also in the first generation of girls that went to school after Title IX was enacted in US schools. Equal opportunities in athletics, back then, seemed a new, honest and honorable route to personal achievement.

I know now that no matter the sphere where individuals compete, people are bound to bring their own issues and complications. This issue of Room does an admirable job of capturing those complexities in clear and intriguing prose, nonfiction, art, poetry and reviews. Being a solidly feminist journal, its editors and writers don’t truck in third-wave cattiness or apologetics. In fact, the heart of the volume is a journalistic account of systemic sexual abuse by those in authority in girls’ sports, and the connected de-emphasis of women’s competitive opportunities, all the way to the Olympic level. Clear-eyed, Laura Robinson examines her own recollections of life on hockey and cycling teams, as well as her examination of the “Flying Fourteen” ski jumpers attempting to secure equal representation at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Her realization – “On this little shining ice, boys were not just allowed to break the rules; in order to be a real boy in our neighborhood they had to” – sums up the ongoing difference between male and female attitudes concerning sports.

Granted, that difference might lie more in newcomers’ faith in the rules versus the jaded’s flaunting of them, but that faith in fairplay, even in the face of evidence that classifies such faith as naiveté, is a theme shown throughout the editors’ selections. Kimberley Fehr’s “Mandy Rayburn” has a narrator who competes neck and neck with her titular doppelganger, up until the point where faith, and human decency, are lost in pursuit of the gold. The quartet of poems by Kerry Ryan are as tough and nuanced as their narrator, a boxer learning how to take the blows. But competition takes more forms than sports: Jennifer Manuel’s “Glass Balloons” is as diverting and simple a folk allegory as Kim Aubrey’s “Peloton” is quietly and realistically devastating, in its portrait of a man losing in the race to hang on to his wife’s love.

There is not one poem, story or interview I wouldn’t read again. Each work is well-built, clear, appropriate to the theme and surprising through character, not linguistic daredevil acts. The magazine’s 2009 Writing Contest winners (Jessica Hiemstra-van der Horst’s “I told my first stranger I was pregnant,” Wenda Naim’s “Funny Bone,” Audrey J. Whitson’s “The Glorious Mysteries,” M.E. Powell’s “Ghosting,” “April the Cruelest” by Adrianne Kalfopoulou and “Why Wake Dayo?” by Carla Hartenberger), especially, are worth savoring. As for me, I keep sneaking back to “How to Coach Soccer to Five-year-olds” – it’s the advice you wish as a kid adults could give you, and as an adult, you wish you could still get.
[www.roommagazine.com/]

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