Gabby Douglas, the 16-year-old gymnast who stole America’s heart with her shining smile, will publish her first book this December. The book — titled Grace, Gold and Glory, My Leap of Faith — will detail the journey that Douglas and her family took to reach the 2012 Summer Olympics,where Douglas won two gold medals. Upon the announcement, Douglas told People Magazine, “Even before I competed in the Olympics, I always wanted to write a book.”
While the sacrifice and determination are not foreign concepts to the majority of world-class athletes, Douglas’ memoir will chronicle a particularly unique challenge that Douglas faced: Gabby Douglas is black.
Although she is now acclaimed as the first African-American to win the all-around gold in women’s gymnastics, Douglas’ race set her apart from the beginning and not always in a positive way. The New York Daily News reports that Douglas, in a conversation with Oprah Winfrey, shared the pain of racist comments made to her when she trained in Virginia as a child. Douglas remembers:
“I was just, you know, kind of getting racist jokes, kind of being isolated from the group. So it was definitely hard. I would come home at night and just cry my eyes out.” In one particular incident, Douglas recalls, “One of my teammates was like, ‘Could you scrape the bar?'” she remembered. “And they were like, ‘Why doesn’t Gabby do it, she’s our slave?’ “
At one point in her training, the taunting was so great she begged her mother to let her move to Iowa to train at another gym with another coach and team. Douglas’ mother complied and moved Douglas some 3,000 miles from home to train with coach Liang Chow.
Regarding her goals for the book, Douglas told Today, “My mom and I want to let people know about us and how we overcame hard times.” The book will reference how Douglas’ deep Christian faith and her loyal and encouraging family — including the host family she lived with during training — helped her focus on her Olympic dream. According to Douglas’ agent Sheryl Shade, Douglas “wants the book to show that dreams can be achieved through hard work and determination.”
Perhaps the most admirable portion of Douglas’ tale is the attitude she has about her accomplishments as an African-American athlete. Stanley Crouch of the New York Daily exhorts Douglas for “thriving in a sport dominated by Asians and Eastern Europeans […] with class and grace.” Instead of setting herself apart because of her ethnicity, she embraced the help of her teammates and her Chinese coach and showed the world what determination and discipline can accomplish, regardless of race.
HarperCollins acquired the memoir, which will be published in December of 2012.