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[Nonfiction Wednesday] A Fearless Female Sportswriter (Who Wrote Stories Others Didn’t)

Meet Mary Garber, Sportswriter.

Nonfiction+Picture+Book+Challenge+2020

Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2020 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.

Last week, I shared the story of African American journalist, Ethel L. Payne. This week, I am excited to feature the picturebook biography of Mary Garber, fearless sportswriter who wrote about African American athletes (and athletes who are culturally and linguistically diverse) at a time when it was not acceptable to do so.


Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story Of Sportswriter Mary Garber (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Sue Macy Art by C. F. Payne
Published by Simon Schuster / Paula Wiseman Books (2016)
ISBN: 1481401203 (ISBN13: 9781481401203). Literary Awards: NCTE Orbis Pictus Award Nominee (2017), Ohioana Book Award for Juvenile Literature (2017). Borrowed via NLB Singapore Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

As a young girl, Mary Garber was already shown to be highly involved in sports, thanks to her father who taught his daughters the fundamentals and the rules of the games that they watched in the stadium together.

While Mary’s mother was more stereotypical in her views, her father was generally more supportive and encouraging. Mary also showed a penchant for news reporting, even as a young child. Hence, it is no wonder that she eventually became a society reporter for the Twin City Sentinel. World War II changed things drastically and offered new opportunities that would not otherwise have been granted to her: Mary was asked to take on the role of a sportswriter which was more Mary’s speed.

I read this picturebook as part of our research project on diverse stories and inclusive practices. I am also actively looking out for portrayal of microaggressions and inequality in the biographies that I am reading. The story of Mary Garber embodies the many travails that many women experience when they are working in professions that are traditionally held by men.

She had to endure gender discrimination (I found the image above to be particularly striking) and was even asked to “sew up a tear in a young man’s uniform” as she was covering a basketball game. She was left with story scraps as she was not allowed inside locker rooms as a female sportswriter. Yet, she persisted.

She also observed and documented racial discrimination in the many stories she wrote about, particularly when Jackie Robinson joined the major leagues. It was a pivotal moment in Mary Garber’s career – which also led to her commitment to surface stories that would not otherwise have been told in the papers at the time.

This is a story that disarmed me completely. I am not sure if it was because of Miss Mary’s miniature size that made me resonate with the narrative deeply, or her quiet courage in simply going about her work the best way she could with patience and persistence, or her generosity in documenting stories that lift young athletes up from obscurity – but the way she was portrayed here truly captured my heart.

“That’s Miss Mary Garber. And she doesn’t care who you are, or where you’re from, or what you are. If you do something, she’s going to write about you.”

What a remarkable woman, Miss Mary Garber was. I am hoping this story finds you and that you hand it to a bright-eyed child’s hands. It can prove to be life-changing.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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