Jammer. Sin bin. Cougaring. Suicide seats. To those unfamiliar with the sport, the lexicon of flat-track roller derby might sound like gibberish. Luckily, Kate Hargreaves’ book, Talking Derby: Stories From a Life on Eight Wheels, comes complete with a glossary — allowing readers to not only read about derby life but to literally talk it.
Talking Derby is Hargreaves’ energetic first book chronicling her own life as a member of Windsor’s flat-track roller derby league that she joined in 2010. On the track, Hargreaves is a contender, better known as “Pain Eyre.” She sports the number 1847 — an ode to the year in which Jane Eyre was published.
Hargreaves’ passion for flat-track roller derby is tangible, leaping from the page in short and enthusiastic spurts. Though readers may tire of these choppy and fragmented sentences, the book’s variety of genres — poetry, prose and letters — keeps Talking Derby an interesting and fast read.
Hargreaves’ biggest strength is that she doesn’t force her readers to stay locked on sweat-and blood-spattered tracks. She also points her lens at the camaraderie she forms off the track with her equally tough and determined peers. Boasting names like Greta Grip, Mary Kate Smashley, and Crabby Apple, the women of roller derby are fierce and resilient. It’s the moments between friends — like during post-derby dashes for snacks at the grocery store — that make Talking Derby an easily relatable and memorable read. (Jessica Rose)