Saturday, December 8, 2012

Happy Hanukkah, Dvora Meyers!

If you thought that Bela Karolyi broke Kim Zmeskal, you're wrong. Dvora Meyers did.

Funny, I don't remember She-Ra looking this much like a drag queen.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, I suggest that you stop whatever it is that you're doing and read Dvora Meyers's book Heresy on the High Beam. It's funny. It's witty. It's breezy. It's cheap, just like her (her joke, not mine). And the end result is a book that readers can relate to.

Keep in mind that I say that as both a man and a gentile. Throughout her far-too-short collection of essays, Dvora combs through her life, weaving together her musings on her identity as a former gymnast, a woman, and a member of the tribe of Israel. As she patches together these themes, her seams rarely show, and we, as readers, do not get distracted by the patchwork. On a single page, we read about her parents' bitter divorce, psalms, and Kim Zmeskal without questioning their relationship.

Even if your parents were not divorced, even if you have never read a psalm, and even if you hated Kim Zmeskal, gymnastics fans will feel that Dvora's life story is their life story. As Dvora recalls her childhood memories of bedroom gymnastics (not that kind, perv), VHS tapes of gymnastics meets, and idolizing certain gymnasts, we are taken back to a simpler time, when we hadn't thought about the word "artistry" or were unfamiliar with Bruno Grandi. At the same time, she walks us through those painful moments in our lives, and she leaves us feeling like we were not alone during the dark night of our gymnastics souls. For me, it was refreshing to hear a less-than-elite gymnast describe the pain of retiring one's identity as a gymnast:

"The longer I stayed with the sport, the more my identity became wrapped up in it. I didn’t merely do gymnastics; I was a gymnast. I could not distinguish the activity from the person. If I stopped, what would I be?"

And perhaps that is Dvora's greatest achievement. She has charted new territory for the world of books about gymnastics. No longer do memoirs about the sport have to be written from the perspective of an elite. She proves that they can and should be written from the perspective of an ordinary gymnast and super fan. This book, she dedicates to you, Gymternet:

"And of course, I cannot forget my fellow gymnastics fans, especially the ones who've digitized their entire tape collections, which daily keep me from working and acting like a functional, productive adult."

In short, Heresy on the High Beam kept me from working and acting like a functional, productive adult. (People stared at me as I laughed out loud reading the book during my daily commute on the train. Hash-Tag-Awkward.) And I hope that it does the same for you or a beloved gymnastics superfan this holiday season. (Not sure how to gift an ebook? Slate has a series of suggestions for you.)

P.S. You can purchase the very first book written by a platinum card member of the gymternet on Amazon. It's only $3.99. That's cheaper than a pair of grips, a leotard, a pack of scrunchies, a box of condoms, a six pack of PBR, a McDonald's value meal, the first season of Make It or Break It on DVD, and pretty much anything else you might have on your wish list from Santa Claus.

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