The History of an American Sport
296 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 1.10 in, 26 b&w photos
Sales Date: October 12, 2021
Since 1935, roller derby has thrilled fans and skaters with its constant action, hard hits, and edgy attitude. However, though its participants’ athleticism is undeniable, roller derby has never been accepted as a “real” sport. Michella M. Marino, herself a former skater, tackles the history of a sport that has long been a cultural mainstay for one reason both utterly simple and infinitely complex: roller derby has always been coed.
Richly illustrated and drawing on oral histories, archival materials, media coverage, and personal experiences, Roller Derby is the first comprehensive history of this cultural phenomenon, one enjoyed by millions yet spurned by mainstream gatekeepers. Amid the social constraints of the mid-twentieth century, roller derby’s emphasis on gender equality attracted male and female athletes alike, producing gender relations and gender politics unlike those of traditional sex-segregated sports. In an enlightening feminist critique, Marino considers how the promotion of pregnancy and motherhood by roller derby management has simultaneously challenged and conformed to social norms. Finally, Marino assesses the sport’s present and future after its resurgence in the 2000s.
Michella M. Marino’s original and compelling history of roller derby shows us how the coed sport skates on a precarious balance of challenging and reinforcing the dominant culture. In doing so, Marino untangles the gender, sexual, and racial dynamics of US sport culture itself. Deeply researched, this lively narrative is a must-read for those interested in gender, sport, spectacle, and American culture. ~Susan Cahn
Roller Derby: The History of an American Sport is both a powerful history and a great read. It brings alive the origins, growth, and complex evolution of an unusual and very real sport, which tends to be either loved to distraction or regrettably misunderstood. As one of those who loves roller derby to distraction, I was wowed by the author’s colorful stories, original interviews, and incisive analysis of gender, race, class, and sexuality. Readers, skaters, athletes, feminists, and fans of all kinds will want to high five Michella M. Marino (aka Coors Lightning) for this meticulously researched, force-filled, and fascinating book. ~Devoney "Stone Cold Jane Austen" Looser
In this exploration of the history of women in roller derby, Michella M. Marino highlights the shifting, often contradictory dynamics of gender, sexuality, and race in US sport and society. Expertly told and carefully researched and including a wealth of oral history interviews with athletes, coaches, managers, children of skaters, and fans, this is a fascinating study of an understudied phenomenon. ~Jaime Schultz
This book is an absolute gem, meticulously researched and certain to become the authoritative text on the history of roller derby in the USA. Using a combination of oral history testimonies and fascinating archival sources, Marino approaches roller derby as an important cultural institution and examines the twists and turns of almost one hundred years of the sport with curiosity, generosity, and impressive rigor. The book stands out for its consistent attention to the way tensions around gender, class, and race across twentieth-century America were transacted and negotiated by skaters and wider roller derby communities. Roller Derby: The History of an American Sport achieves the remarkable feat of not only giving an account of the captivating conflicts, triumphs, and frustrations of roller derby itself but also offering readers a fresh perspective on the much broader issues that shape our lives and define our cultures. ~Maddie Breeze
Roller Derby is the rockin’ blend of engaging scholarly research and feminist might...[Marino's] prose is so effortless and engaging because she’s tuned into the nuances of the game that only an insider would know...Her personal experience as an athlete adds texture and passion to her writing—it’s easy to be inspired by how much she cares about capturing a sport that began as the only full-contact co-ed sport in America...Marino’s Roller Derby is a triumphant take on a slice of Americana that makes for an exhilarating read. ~Sightlines
Starting in 1935, the sport of roller derby has excited fans with its mix of fast action and edgy attitude. Roller Derby tells the sport’s complex history through rich illustrations, archival materials, and personal experiences. ~Alcalde
Fun and full of life, Marino’s Roller Derby will appeal to scholars interested in American sport, gender, and spectacle, but also to the broad audience of skaters and sports fans. ~New Books in Sports
Roller Derby is an exceptional work that not only illuminates the history of a sport that remains on the margins of sport history but also offers a feminist examination that transcends Roller Derby itself. Marino’s use of oral histories brings insights otherwise unavailable. Her narrative of Roller Derby, alongside shrewd analysis of the world of sport makes this book an excellent read. This text should be of interest to anyone who is drawn to histories of popular culture, sport as Americana, and women’s sport history. ~Journal of Sport History
Marino’s first book is a great contribution to the field of American sports history, and could be a valuable addition to any gender and sport syllabus. Her writing is lively, bringing to life a cast of colourful individuals whose contributions to American culture had been long forgotten. ~Sport in History
Chapter 1. From Spectacle to Sport
Chapter 2. Skating through the Boundaries of Identity
Chapter 3. “A Very Handsome King for a Very Beautiful Queen”
Chapter 4. Diaper Derbies
Chapter 5. California or Bust
Chapter 6. DIY Roller Derby
The publication of Roller Derby was made possible by the support of the Terry and Jan Todd Endowment on Physical Culture and Sports.