Black & Blue by Andra Douglas is a book about a bunch of women determined to play tackle football at the highest level. But more than that, it is an important story of breaking societal norms, battling stereotypical prejudices, and coming to terms with what defines you as a person.
The narrator, Christine, lays out the core issue at the very beginning: “I grew up in the South. The freedom the South offers to its males is a singular experience. Gaining this freedom is a game of sorts….Football is the southern males’ identity.”
“Had I been born a male, things would have been different…The South would have engulfed me, seduced me and made me a child of its own. As a female, it still engulfed me, still seduced me, but then betrayed me as lovers do who end up bitter, never repairing the scars of trust gone awry.”
Christine lives a life of professional accomplishment: As an adult, she is an artist of note (she’ll draw several hundred to a New York City opening) and also VP/Creative Director for Time Warner. But from her childhood in the deep South, her love was to play football and not much else: “I do not like lace. I hate cooking. I am too young to wear a bra and burn it.”
Fast forward to her relocation to New York City, where she connects with a group of women longing to play “flag” football. Eventually, this opens the door for the creation of a professional football league for women.
While the book chronicles each football season game by game leading to a league championship run, the games are secondary to Christine sorting out her priorities, identity and love life.
Since originally reviewing this novel, BookTrib had the chance to ask Douglas some further questions:
The story is written as a novel but seems more like a memoir. Why did you choose to write it that way, and are there any major differences between you and your character, Christine?
As a writer, I wanted to take some liberty with the descriptions of characters, places, and plot. Fiction allowed me to do so. It was fun to be able to add some imaginative touches.
Having success as an artist and as a corporate executive, what inspired you to write this book and share this story?
Each day of every year that I owned the team, there was something that was worth writing down: humorous, sad, inspiring, thrilling, poignant, memorable —-a veritable color wheel of emotions and events that I wanted to capture.
I filled up large bins of scraps with my notes and knew one day I would weave them into the story that needed to be told. Each person to enter Shark waters has a worthy story, and when they are mixed together, the shareable stories are endless.
What life lessons would you want readers to take away from Black & Blue?
I always had a dream of being a pro football player. I never thought I would own a team and I never thought women would have a league, but it was a dream of mine to somehow be a part of the game.
Through perseverance this happened, though not quite as I envisioned—yet it did happen. And I wouldn’t change a day. So I would say to never give up on your dreams, but be open to them coming true in different forms.
What’s the next project?
I spend a lot of time in my head. And in there is a very lively childhood and a memorable hometown full of friends: my own, my parents’ friends, my grandparents’ friends, my sisters’ friends and, of course, my dear family.
When I moved to New York, I found another family — my football family. I think of them all a lot. While writing Black & Blue, I discovered the only way to keep these people alive is by taking them out of my head and putting them on a page to share with others.
So, having said that, my next project is another book that includes characters that I love, then and now, as well as new paintings that reflect the nostalgia of past times and the inevitable changes we all encounter on our journey through life.
Black & Blue is available for purchase.
About Andra Douglas:
A native of central Florida and a graduate of Florida State University and Pratt Institute, Andra Douglas has been a national champion athlete in rugby and women’s tackle football, a vice president/creative director at Time Warner, the founder of the Fins Up! Foundation for Female Athletes, a non-profit to benefit at-risk tends, owner of the New York Sharks women’s pro football team for 19 years and a known artist. She lives in New York City with her parrot, Pie.