I was faithfully supporting young Gabby Douglas during the 2012 Summer Olympics, from the time she was selected for the only guaranteed spot on Team USA, ’til the moment she made Olympic history as the first woman of color and African American gymnast to win the individual all-around gold. Her tiny but strong frame, her unabashed love and gratitude toward God, and her wide, ever-present grin made her America’s sweetheart. I was on my feet cheering when this teen made history. So, when I saw her new autobiography, Grace, Gold & Glory displayed at the bookstore, I hurried to my local library to order a copy.
In Gabby’s light but heartfelt memoir, we’re given a personal glimpse of her origins– a story not many may know– as the youngest of four children to a financially struggling single mother. She was born homeless and sickly, and grew up in a seedy neighborhood, while dealing with racism and bullying in the gym as an adolescent. However, Gabby’s tight-knit and loving family, despite the absence of her father, and her even tighter connection to God pulled her through the roughest times and brought her joy. Despite Gabby’s tremendous accomplishments in gymnastics, it’s clear the other heroine of the tale is her mother. Despite raising four children as a single parent with little to no financial help, the woman tirelessly worked double shifts to afford Gabby’s gymnastic pursuits, and instilled in her daughter strength, discipline, confidence, and faith.
This book’s targeted audience is adolescent girls, likely with religious leanings. I admire Douglas’ integrity in her unabashed personal testimonies of faith, and her quoting of Scripture. It authentically represents who she is (and the publisher is Zondervan, after all). But as this is a book geared for young adults, be prepared for words like ‘sorta’ and ‘kinda,’ as well as ‘lol’ and ‘btw’. Grace, Gold & Glory can be summarized as a relationship-driven biography, ultimately focusing more upon Douglas’s journey than the Olympic destination itself. Adolescent readers will particularly relate to Gabby’s informal, conversational tone and pop culture references, but any reader can admire this young woman’s talent, heart, and unwavering faith.