Fierce: How Com­pet­ing for Myself Changed Everything

Aly Rais­man

  • Review
By – May 29, 2018

Every­one remem­bers the moment Aly Rais­man became our ath­lete – at the 2012 Lon­don Sum­mer Olympics when, to the tune of Hava Nag­i­lah,” she ded­i­cat­ed her floor rou­tine to the mem­o­ry of the eleven Israeli ath­letes mur­dered at the 1972 Munich games. She won a gold medal for that flaw­less per­for­mance, as well as the hearts of Jew­ish peo­ple around the world. In her auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Fierce, Rais­man shares her jour­ney with can­dor and joy, giv­ing cred­it to her sup­port­ive family.

Gym­nas­tics has been Raisman’s life from the age of eight, and along with it has come the rig­or­ous train­ing sched­ule of cham­pi­ons. Though she noticed the ordi­nary life she was miss­ing, Rais­man was rarely resent­ful. She embraced the pace of her days with enthu­si­asm, and joy­ful­ly chron­i­cles friend­ships with oth­er young gym­nasts, intense train­ing ses­sions, and com­pe­ti­tions around the world.

Judaism is a min­i­mal theme in her book. After men­tion­ing being con­tact­ed by the Nation­al Jew­ish Sports Hall of Fame, Rais­man segues into thoughts about miss­ing school, self-con­scious­ness about her looks, and aca­d­e­m­ic pres­sure. There is scant men­tion of the head­line-gen­er­at­ing Hava Nag­i­lah” moment at the Lon­don Olympics. We are not privy to her thoughts about being Jew­ish or her feel­ings on her grand, gen­er­ous ges­ture. She acknowl­edges speak­ing at Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ters and notes the impact I had as a Jew­ish ath­lete.” She also dis­cuss­es sev­er­al post-Olympics inci­dents: a let­ter she received from an IDF sol­dier and a let­ter her rab­bi received from a Holo­caust sur­vivor. But from there the focus quick­ly returns to the book’s major themes of gym­nas­tics, ambi­tion, and hard work. The sex­u­al abuse scan­dal which stunned the world is touched on, and her brav­ery and resolve in deal­ing with this betray­al is wrench­ing. Resources for sur­vivors of abuse are list­ed in the addendum.

The book — a long exal­ta­tion of a young life filled with the joys of dis­ci­pline and its rewards — exudes con­fi­dence and hon­esty, and offers excel­lent advice. The sto­ry ends with a list enti­tled The Fierce Guide to Life,” which is a method worth embrac­ing. It includes such tips as Strive to make the world a kinder place. The impact of your kind­ness can be big­ger than you think.”

Award-win­ning jour­nal­ist and free­lance writer, Helen Weiss Pin­cus, has taught mem­oir writ­ing and cre­ative writ­ing through­out the NY Metro area to senior cit­i­zens and high school stu­dents. Her work has been pub­lished in The New York Times, The Record, The Jew­ish Stan­dard, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. She recent­ly added Bub­by” to her job description.

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