• Little Girls in Pretty Boxes

  • The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters
  • By: Joan Ryan
  • Narrated by: Jennifer Jill Araya
  • Length: 8 hrs and 34 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (35 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Welcome to the world of women's gymnastics and figure skating - the real world that happens away from the cameras, at the training camps and in the private lives of these talented teenage competitors. From starvation diets and debilitating injuries to the brutal tactics of tyrannical gymnastics guru Bela Károlyi, Little Girls in Pretty Boxes portrays the horrors endured by girls at the hands of their coaches and sometimes their own families - and is now updated with a new introduction and foreword that address the sexual abuse scandal perpetrated by USA Gymnastics national team doctor, Larry Nassar. 

This groundbreaking book shows how a longstanding culture of abuse made young gymnasts perfect targets for a sexual predator, and continues to plead for sanity, safety, and an end to our national obsession: winning at any cost.

©1995 Joan Ryan (P)2021 Tantor

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Holds up 20 years later

Twenty years before most of us heard the name Larry Nassar, the Gymnastics who molested over 150 gymnasts and other athletes, journalist Joan Ryan wrote LITTLE GIRLS IN PRETTY BOXES about the often dark secrets behind competitive gymnastics and figure skating. I still gave my copy from 1995 which I read cover to cover the day it was released.

I’ve been a Gymnastics and figure skating super-fan since watching Olga Korbut, then Nadia Comaneci. I wrote a fan letter to Tai and Randy and thought life couldn’t get any better when Randy responded. LITTLE GIRLS IN PRETTY BOXES both crushed my fantasy of perfect girls effortlessly twisting their bodies in unimaginable ways by showing the abusive coaches, the eating disorders, crushed self esteem, intimidation and lack of regard these girls and young women endured. Some didn’t survive their sports.

Ryan interviewed athletes, family, trainers , used news reports and footage show the tears behind the smiles and presented the stories in a compulsive readable chapters that had me wanting an update.

With the news of Larry Nassar’s crimes and USA Gymnastics complicity, Joan Ryan or somebody else needs to write the next chapter in the failure of USAG and the USOC to protect its athletes from predators. Sadly, Bela Karoli’s emotional abuse of young gymnasts is clearly documented and well known internationally. Officials led the public to believe when Marta took over as USAG team coach, the sport had turned away from its abusive past to a gentler, more humane way of training athletes **children** trying to pursue their dreams of Olympic glory tumbling toward the gold.

ETA I also enjoyed the audiobook.

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Important read

Before watching the Olympics listen to this. Many more reforms are needed to keep these athletes safe and healthy and protect them from poorly educated coaches.

1 person found this helpful