Finding a good sports novel about teen girls has proven difficult for librarians. The genre is “severely lacking,” according Erin Whiteside, a 2010 Penn State doctoral graduate and current assistant professor at the University of Tennessee.
Whiteside presented research about two prominent series of contemporary teen girls’ novels, Pretty Tough and Dairy Queen, at the annual meeting of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport in Minneapolis on Friday.
The narratives the series give somewhat detracts from messages to empower teens. Whiteside said that the novels often present sports as a way to receive male approval and that sports actually create tension in their lives.
Concepts that reinforced heterosexual norms were also broached in the literature, said Whiteside, who analyzed the novels along with Penn State’s Marie Hardin, Lauren DeCarvalho, Nadia Carillo Martinez and Alex Nutter Smith.
However, the protagonists’ efforts to broaden the boundaries of what’s acceptable for women athletes should be acknowledged as a positive, Whiteside said.
— Steve Bien-Aime