Per­fect Match: The Sto­ry of Althea Gib­son and Angela Buxton

  • Review
By – July 9, 2024

Lori Dubbin’s graph­ic biog­ra­phy cel­e­brates two sin­gles ten­nis play­ers who leapt over racial and reli­gious bar­ri­ers in the 1950s by becom­ing an inter­na­tion­al, award-win­ning dou­bles team. Dubbin’s well-cho­sen details, com­bined with Aman­da Quartey’s expres­sive illus­tra­tions, make Per­fect Match an upbeat sto­ry of inter­ra­cial friend­ship and triumph.

Back in the fifties, ten­nis was all-white and racist. Grow­ing up, Althea Gib­son was only allowed to com­pete in the one league that was open to Black Amer­i­cans. Every team in the Unit­ed King­dom reject­ed Angela Bux­ton because she was Jew­ish. Sep­a­rate­ly, per­sis­tence and excel­lence helped each to be cho­sen to rep­re­sent their respec­tive coun­tries for the same tour of Asia in 1955, where they bond­ed after vol­ley­ing against each oth­er. Angela was still hold­ing out for the per­fect dou­bles part­ner with whom to enter the Wim­ble­don com­pe­ti­tion when they met again in France one year lat­er. She asked Althea, who was lone­ly but had nev­er con­sid­ered play­ing dou­bles before, to become her part­ner right then. Althea accept­ed with delight. They had only two weeks to prac­tice com­bin­ing their strengths and get­ting out of each other’s way. Then, ignor­ing jeers from the French in the stands, Althea and Angela start­ed win­ning. They kept on win­ning game after game, includ­ing Wim­ble­don the very next year.

The book ends there, but a fas­ci­nat­ing after­word includes joy­ful pho­tographs of the two women togeth­er, as well as addi­tion­al details about how their friend­ship endured. Their team­work ulti­mate­ly opened doors for Althea, who con­tin­ued on in the major leagues as a sin­gles play­er after Angela injured her wrist.

Sharon Elswit, author of The Jew­ish Sto­ry Find­er and a school librar­i­an for forty years in NYC, now resides in San Fran­cis­co, where she shares tales aloud in a local JCC preschool and vol­un­teers with 826 Valen­cia to help stu­dents write their own sto­ries and poems.

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