TITLE: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
AUTHOR: Daniel James Brown
YEAR PUBLISHED: 2013
Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.
The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together—a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.
Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant.
The Boys in the Boat is the first non-fiction read by Delicious Reads for 2017. Two different back stories are told by the author, Daniel James Brown. One is the amazing journey and ultimate victory of the 9 man rowing team from University of Washington, and the second is the setting of the 1936 Olympic Games held in Germany during the reign of the Nazis.
After dining on scrumptious breakfast foods, we talked about the role of propoganda in World War II. We watched part of the film “Triumph of the Will”, which features cutting edge footage of Hitler interacting with the people. Most of us had only seen actors portraying Hitler before watching this clip.
"Triumph of the Will", with its evocative images and innovative film technique, ranked as an epic work of documentary film-making, and is widely regarded as one of the most masterful propaganda films ever produced. It won several awards, but forever linked the film's subject, National Socialism, with its artist, Riefenstahl.” (United States Holocaust Museum)
Leni Riefenstahl also filmed the actual rowing race, something never done before! We watched a clip of the film and talked about how watching sports live might change how we view sports. Previous to this time, sports were broadcast by radio lived and then if they were filmed, shown only after the race. The boys were immediate celebrities.
In an interview with the author, he said while researching the event, everyone he talked to knew the epic story of the 1936 rowing team. The Pacific Northwest has a history of hard working industries like fishing and lumber. Up until this point, Seattle was not a well known city but the boys of the University of Washington rowing team put Seattle on the map.
Some of our favorite quotes were on the theme of hard work:
"Row so hard you black out"
“All were merged into one smoothly working machine; they were, in fact, a poem of motion, a symphony of swinging blades.”