Monday, June 25, 2018

Winning! UNSINKABLE: Jessica Long by Jessica Long with Hannah Long


More than anything, I love being surrounded by water. Fully immersed in that relentless, translucent beautiful element, I feel... a sense of freedom, of not feeling limited or disabled.... That's why I took to swimming with such ease. All my life I have had to fight to catch up with people. But not in the water. That's the one place where everyone else is trying to keep up with me!

Jessica's life didn't begin propitiously. A baby girl born without most of her lower legs, left by her unwed teen-aged mother in an orphanage in Siberia, her fortune changed when she was adopted by a couple from Baltimore who were told they could have no more children. It was a match made in heaven for Jessica and her family as well, and with some surgery to make her lower legs amenable to prosthetics, Jessica was soon toddling after her two older siblings and adopted brother Josh.

But it was that dip in the local pool that set her on a path that led to the ParaOlympics and to many gold medals in swimming. Her athletic abilities and determination to excel won her a place at age 12 on the American team, three gold medals, and much self confidence, along with a closeness with other athletes with disabilities. Jessica Long also earned multiple medals in the 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympics, becoming the second-most decorated American ParaOlympian.

On the cover of her forthcoming memoir, Unsinkable: From Russian Orphan to Paralympic Swimming World Champion (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018), Jessica Tatiana Long looks like the quintessential "golden girl," beautiful and blessed by fortune. But Long writes with an intimate honesty of her long slog to success with a final gold medal at the Rio Olympics, her learning problems, her OCD and relentless stubbornness that once led her to spend two days making up her bed so perfectly that she couldn't bear to sleep in it for two years. "I've never been good at listening to people. They always seem to tell me what I can't do," she says, admitting candidly that that trait was often--but not always--a asset.

Jessica's first person narrative of her life to age 25 is open, honest, and always inspiring, a memoir which offers young readers a glimpse into a young life that has been definitely extraordinary. Along with accounts of chilly 6 A.M practices, fun with friends missed, and an emotional reunion with her birth mother and several Russian siblings, there are also glitzy photo shoots and gossipy glimpses of celebrities, hairdos, glamorous gowns, and the red-carpet ESPY awards for readers to experience, as well as details about what it took to arrive at those high points in her life. Long's memoir, organized in a series of the momentous "moments," give middle and teen readers a window into a different world, written from a moment of retrospection by someone who knows it intimately.

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