On May 17th, my family and I had the opportunity to attend The Great Read In in Jackson, MI. We arrived just in time to catch our friend, Debbie Gonzales, read her brand new, hot off the printing press book, Girls with Guts: The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records. The book is chock full of facts from the passing of Title IX to records broken by trailblazing female athletes. It is a truly inspirational picture book that should be read to girls and boys alike.
As for a girl with guts, Deb spent upward of five years working to get her book just right. The time and love she pored into Girls with Guts is apparent and the illustrations by Rebecca Gibbon bring it to life. We are so excited for Deb and so excited she agreed to an interview!
What is the gutsiest thing you have ever done?
Gosh, that’s a good question. I think earning my MFA at Vermont College could be considered the gutsiest thing I’ve done, most especially writing my thesis. I really didn’t think I’d be able to do it. Just the word ‘thesis’ filled me with a sense of dread. Working with highly-accomplished, award-winning Rita Williams-Garcia as my thesis advisor was both an amazing and daunting experience. The subject of my thesis was the history of the female athletic protagonist. I studied when she appeared in history, how her voice compared with her male protagonist counterparts, and what was happening in history during that time. A big task, for sure. Mid-semester, I had serious come-to-Jesus moment. Many of my classmate had already had their work signed off and were working on the publishing process. Not me. I was buried in research and revisions. I really didn’t think I’d make it. Yet, with sheer determination and the undying support of my husband John, somehow I did. And, the results became the premise for GIRLS WITH GUTS.
Who is a girl with guts you admire in your life right now?
That’s an easy question for me to answer. I admire my daughter Taylor. She’s strong-willed, adventurous, and lives life on her own terms. She’s a natural leader and deals with life head on, without regrets. I do think that her high school athletic experiences as an all-star softball and basketball player served to equip her for the fascinating life she’s leading. While I haven’t always agreed with all of the choices she’s made in her life, I admire the way she’s not afraid to try anything. She’s traveled around the world, climbed mountains, and yet has preserved a kind and gracious spirit. Taylor has never played small ball. I continue to learn so much from her. I love her so.
Who is a boy with guts you admire in your life right now?
Being that I am headed to Austin to celebrate my grandson’s high school graduation. I’d have to say that Marcel Gonzales is the ultimate boy with guts in my life right now. Despite loads of opposition being thrown his way, Marcel has remained diligent and focused, keeping his eye on the collegiate prize. Rather than buckling against the odds, he’s maintained great scores in his AP classes, assumed leadership roles in the high school band, enjoyed a great circle of great friendships, all the while holding down a part-time job. He’s a great kid. A true guy with guts! Can you tell that I am one very proud grandma?
Which girl in Girls with Guts did you find most fascinating?
That’s hard question to answer. I love them all! When I let my imagination loose, I visualize a jewel of empowerment being passed on to each player featured in the book, a gem that gets brighter and brighter with each tenacious exchange. The book begins telling the story of the first Olympic games when it was completely lawful to kill a woman if she entered the arena. Well, those fearless females wouldn’t let some death threat keep them from competing. No way. Instead of being controlled by such tyranny, females gathered together to run footraces at a festival celebrating the Goddess Hera. So began that race to breaking barriers and bashing records! I believe that this same persistent spirit of determination shines brightly in each of the ladies celebrated in the book and many more to come.
Why did you write Girls with Guts?
I don’t if you knew this, but my background in education is founded on the Montessori Method. I’ve taught all ages of kids, as well as served as a school administrator following this method of teaching – which I love. It’s interesting to note that the basis of historical instruction focuses on the peacemakers, rather than conflict. Students are encouraged to consider how important individuals of the past have sacrificed in their behalf. The foundation of this way of teaching history is to develop a sense of gratitude for the contributions of those who came before and to become inspired to do the same. In the end, my wish is that young readers will come to understand that the freedoms that they enjoy every day have been fought for by others.
There’s a line in the Author’s Note that sums up the message I hope readers will receive. In it, I explain that, to play like a girl, “… means remaining laser focused and performing at your peak level, no matter who deems the effort to be silly or useless. It means being aware that, when you excel in your sport, it’s a win for all girls everywhere.” You go, girl!!!!!
Thanks so much to Debbie Gonzales and congratulations on her brand new book that is sure to inspire young athletes around the world. You go girl!
Be sure to check out Debbie's website at: http://www.debbiegonzales.com/
and podcast, The Debcast at: http://www.debbiegonzales.com/the-debcast-epsiodes