Dust Bowl Girls: A Review

Dust Bowl Girls: A Team's Quest for Basketball GloryDust Bowl Girls: A Team’s Quest for Basketball Glory
Author: Lydia Reeder
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Genre: Nonfiction

5.0 Stars

Oklahoma. The Dust Bowl. Women’s basketball. The season that made history. The 1930s were a hard time for many, but none so much as the farmers of Oklahoma. At the time, poor families made dresses out of grain sacks, basketball players owned one pair of shoes, and college (especially for girls) was a distant dream. Coach Babb had different ideas. He toured the state, recruiting the strongest players he could find in the high school circuit; endowing those he found with skill, and more importantly, purpose. He coached the Cardinals in the city of Durant, and things were about to change, irreversibly, forever.

Dust Bowl Girls, ten years in the making, is bursting at the margins with the intimate details of the Cardinal team members’ lives, providing genuine heart to a narrative only half-recorded in the newspapers of the time. Taking advantage of the scrapbooks and oral stories from the personalities so lovingly portrayed in the text, Lydia Reeder paints the story of a team of hard-on-their-luck teenagers rising up out of the dust of poverty and the Great Depression, bringing hope and honor to their small city of Durant in Oklahoma.

As a sports story and as a memoir, Dust Bowl Girls recreates the atmosphere of the early 1900s, as politics and traditionalism threatened the game that brought Oklahoma Presbyterian College and its basketball team such pride. Throughout the novel, the reader is given ample context, so that she can understand what the team was truly up against. From First Lady Hoover’s mission to remove all women from competitive sports, to a run-down team bus that nearly careened off a mountain when its brakes failed. The human moments come from the shy, yet naked windows into the minds of the players and their coach Babb, as personal conflicts and daily drama propel them towards their eventual, highly-unanticipated games at the AAU National Finals.

Reeder writes with hungry excitement, rallying the reader to root for the Cardinals, and doesn’t disappoint, with energetic retellings of the key games of the team’s most important season. Lovers of sports fiction would find it hard to be disappointed by this delightful and enlightening window into a history that very nearly never was.

Algonquin Books provided me with an advanced copy for an honest review. Dust Bowl Girls releases on January 17, 2017. Preorder your copy here.

7 thoughts on “Dust Bowl Girls: A Review

    1. I really recommend it! It had a lot of really nice moments, and it helps that true life made a movie ending for them!


  1. I wish my mother still were alive. She’d love this. Born in 1918, she was playing basketball at exactly the same time. She, too, wore floursack dresses, and hand-me-down shoes. (She was a guard, by the way.) Once upon a time, the Harlem Globetrotters were scheduled to play an exhibition game in their town, but it didn’t happen because they got stuck on a muddy road in their Model A Ford.

    One of my treasures is a photo of Mom with her team. She’s second from left.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s awesome that you have photos like that! My grandmother recently passed, and my sister was going through some old boxes of photos, and we have no idea who is who in some of these photos (also, apparently my grandmother was not shy at all in front of a camera!)


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