[TV still from GLOW, Netflix]
If you’re anything like us, GLOW has taken over your life. After finishing the (too short) first season, we’re blasting “We Don’t Get Along” by The Go-Go’s as we Google wrestling classes in our area. (Chikara Wrestle Factory in Philadelphia, we’re coming for you.) But between group texting with our girl gang and digging through Goodwill piles for 80s unitards, we’ve come up with a reading list inspired by the female wrestlers of GLOW. Ladies and germs, are you ready to readdddddddddddddd?
Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Women’s Wrestling by Pat Laprade and Dan Murphy
We’ll be starting with Sisterhood of the Squared Circle, which promises to be a complete history of women in wrestling, starting with the carnivals of the 1800s all the way through to the smackdowns we know and love today. In addition to the history of the sport, this book contains profiles of over 100 female wrestlers, exploring the women throughout history who shaped this business. While this book mainly focuses on wrestling in the United States, Sisterhood of the Squared Circle has a global scope, diving into the role of women’s wrestling in Japan, Mexico, England, and Australia. There’s even a section of the book dedicated to the real women of GLOW, providing a historic touchstone for our pop culture fandom.
Crazy is My Superpower: How I Triumphed by Breaking Bones, Breaking Hearts, and Breaking the Rules by AJ Mendez Brooks
After priming ourselves with the history of the sport, we’ll be eager to sink our teeth into recently retired WWE superstar AJ Mendez Brooks’ memoir. In what promises to be a gorgeously honest memoir, Brooks (who wrestled under the name AJ Lee) explores her own bipolar disorder and its effect on her life and career. In Crazy is My Superpower, Brooks looks the stigma of mental health squarely in the eye, challenging pervasive stereotypes to a match. It sounds like an incredible exploration of an illness so many people wrestle with each day and a kickass memoir about one woman’s career in no doubt the most popular wrestling organization in the country. Give us everything you’ve got, AJ.
She’s a Knockout!: A History of Women in Fighting Sports by L.A. Jennings
Now that we’ve had a taste of women’s wrestling, we’re eager to dive into every other fighting sport out there. If women are flexing their muscles and throwing each other around the ring, we want to read about it. Fortunately there’s She’s a Knockout!, a book that chronicles the history of female athletes in not only wrestling, but also mixed martial arts and boxing. The book also explores the discrimination women in fighting sports have faced over the years – and the unfortunate reality that our society still has a long way to go. Jennings puts a feminist lens on the world of fighting sports, interrogating the long history of portraying women as objects and the way these women fought both inside and outside the ring to be seen as the resilient and triumphant athletes they are. We haven’t even finished the book and we’re already daydreaming about a road trip Jennings’ gym Train.Fight.Win. in Denver.
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
We’re closing out our wrestling reading list with a little fiction about alligator wrestling. Swamplandia!’s protagonist, 13-year-old Ava, has lived in Florida on her family’s alligator wrestling amusement park her entire life. But when her mother – the park’s star wrestler – becomes sick, the delicate structure of the amusement park begins to crumble. It’s a novel filled with absurdity, fantasy, and magical swamps – as if Russell hadn’t already hooked us with alligator wrestling and the resilience of teenage girls.
Want to read more about women breaking the mold? Check out Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs. It’s the perfect place to seek inspiration for your wrestling persona!