Elevate Difference

Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track

Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track is a wonderfully weaved account of roller derby. The author, Melissa “Melicious” Joulwan, paints a complex tale of strength, teamwork, empowerment and politics that may remind you of a soap opera set in a junior high school. Joulwan gives the reader a first person account on how the league works and the bumps in the road that goes along. She gives us the history of the league, from its 1950s birth and exponential growth to its sharp decline after the '80s and its revival in the birth of the new century. From the new birth in Austin, TX the reader is treated to witnessing the metamorphoses of the league going from “a really good idea” to a national phenomenon.

Joulawn gives us a detailed account on the exponential popularity of flat track derby complete with skater profiles, numerical charts and amusing quotes from people she personally knows. The reader is taken through a turbulent, competitive journey of how the author leaves her dot-com executive position and moves with her husband to Austin where she discovers the sport.

Through her eyes we see the derby grow from a bunch of girls who don’t really know how to skate to a thriving local sport to a national frenzy in the span of five years. The reader is treated to witnessing the politics and power struggle between the skaters and the “She-EOs” and the eventual split from them that resulted in a new league under the philosophy “by the skaters, for the skaters.” This split also leads to the “She-EOs” decline, hilariously narrated as Joulawn describes the “She-EOs” fiasco climaxing in the aftermath of a Jell-O wrestling match, complete with lots of stickiness and hungry flies.

Rollergirl is really a book about power and less about roller derby. It’s about the power of casting off the materialist identity assigned to you by the capitalist ways of a patriarchal society and carving out a niche for yourself in an area that’s outside of that system. It’s about the politics of working with people - from the crowd to the lawyers and the leadership of the league. It’s about socialist organizational methods versus capitalist methods. Then there’s the power of marketing, the power of controlling your crowd and getting them to react the way you want them to. The message of the book is subliminal and clear: you can do anything.

Written by: Nicholas Johnson, February 26th 2007

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