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Skate on by for a roller derby-filled Authors @ Alden with Samantha Tucker and Amy Spears

Ohio University Libraries will be hitting the track on Thursday, Oct. 12 from 3 - 4:30 p.m. as authors Samantha Tucker and Amy Spears present on their shared work, “Collective Chaos: A Roller Derby Team Memoir.” Rachel Terman, assistant professor of sociology, will also be leading the discussion with the two authors. The event will be held in the 1951 Lounge on the fourth floor of Alden Library. It is free and open to the public.  Light refreshments will be served.

The memoir tells the story of the authors’ time in roller derby, as well as a little about the sport through the perspective of Ohio Roller Derby, which was the first modern roller derby league in Ohio and one of the founding leagues of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. The book is part sports autobiography and part cultural critique of a continuing evolution of a niche-yet-global sport through a historical lens and a collective experience.

As both writers are roller derby athletes themselves, Tucker and Spears had thought of creating something that intersected the two before but hadn’t finalized it until they met someone that gave them a little push.

“Both of us are writers and had kind of toyed with the idea about writing about derby for a while,” Spears said.  “We both read at a storytelling night at a local bar and ended up talking to someone who we both knew who worked for a press. We later talked over the idea of a book with her and [then] pitched the project.”

Roller derby has historically been an outlet for those in marginalized groups and people who have struggled within the mainstream. With the sport’s punk rock culture, “Collective Chaos: A Roller Derby Team Memoir” highlights that heritage and gives insight into the love, teamwork, discipline and discussion of one’s place in society through personal anecdotes.

“Our teammates are our biggest inspiration, as well as all athletes who fall outside of what society deems normal or standard,” Tucker said.

Terman is also no stranger to roller derby. She is a member of Athens Ohio Roller Derby, which is home of the Appalachian Hell Betties and the Black Diamond Betties, and she goes by the alter-ego, “Hella Donna.”

Terman mentioned that she hopes others will get a new understanding and appreciation of roller derby and the significance of it to Ohio, specifically Southeast Ohio and the Athens community. She also mentioned that the sport offers a more expansive approach to gender than many other team sports, which she thinks is compelling in the context of ongoing gender issues and inequalities that happen at local, national and international levels.

“Roller derby is an important builder of community and representation of place, as are many sports,” Terman said. “If your area is lucky enough to have a roller derby team, you have a valuable asset that builds empowerment, community, camaraderie, loyalty, hard work, competitiveness and family among skaters of all walks of life and their supporters.”

Although roller derby varies on participants and the stories detailed in the memoir are just a snippet of the many out there, Spears hopes that their work will give “a fresh look at our niche sport, one that centers women and non-binary people as those in the driver’s seat not just on the track, but also behind the scenes,” while Tucker hopes that “people read the book and are immediately moved to find and support their local roller derby team.”

For more information about the Authors @ Alden event or to request accessibility accommodations, email Jen Harvey, library events coordinator.

October 2, 2023
Mimi Calhoun