Julie Heldman (2018)
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (03/19)
In “Driven: A Daughter’s Odyssey,” author Julie Heldman does a riveting job combining historical information about the history of women’s tennis as well as a personal account of living with absent parents and a journey in mental illness. Many times we find in books a small look at absent, controlling parents that include emotional, physical, and psychological abuse. Heldman incorporates it all in an open, honest look at how she endures all these obstacles to become one of the world’s greatest tennis players.
Even though Julie was accomplished on and off the court, she would never be a winner in her mother’s eyes. Gladys Heldman founded the first tennis magazine, “World Tennis.” It is touted to be the first magazine for tennis players by tennis players. From a very early age, Gladys is driven, rich, and knows no boundaries when it comes to family or friends. She is demanding, alcoholic, and a terror to deal with if you upset her. No one in her family dares to talk back or even thinks about doing things their way. I’m not sure I was surprised at this behavior, what surprises me is she let her young daughters travel alone to different areas of the country to play in tournaments without any supervision, much less a “good luck” comment. I found her husband to be lacking in backbone in all areas. It appears both parents chose to do “their thing” while their daughters relied on other tennis families or host families for the much-needed support.
From an early age, Julie and her sister Carrie were isolated from other children deemed not good enough. Learning no social skills, neither were able to function normally in school, or in social or romantic situations.
I loved the factual, historical information about women’s tennis which many of us do not know. It is written in interesting narratives which give much insight into players like Billie Jean King, the differences in grass and clay courts, and implications of favoritism by judges for tennis players in their country. I find “Driven: A Daughter’s Odyssey” to be easy to read and follow.
Heldman’s honest read is one that is shocking, amazing and makes one realize that regardless of obstacles there is hope and endurance to rise above. I appreciate the personal account of bipolar disorder, which impacts so many. I feel it will help identify some of the up-and-down feelings many experience but have yet to define.
I highly recommend “Driven: A Daughter’s Odyssey.” Julie Heldman provides readers with an excellent journey of the two separate lives she led; one with her unstable mother, and the world of tennis when women finally were recognized for their role and accomplishments. Once you start reading, you can’t put it down.