A powerful and redemptive story of how the dazzling world of roller derby helped one young woman transform her fear and self-doubt into gutsy, big-hearted, adventurous living
“A universal story of healing and triumph, made all the more beautiful, wild, and free by Gabe’s fierce love for roller derby and her team, who become her family.”—ABBY WAMBACH, Olympian, activist, and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Wolfpack
Growing up queer in a conservative Midwestern town, Gabe Montesanti never felt comfortable in her own skin. A competitive swimmer, she turned to perfectionism and self-control to create a sense of safety, only to develop an eating disorder and constantly second-guess her instincts. When she enters graduate school in St. Louis, she is determined to put the baggage of her childhood behind her. With no prior experience, she joins Arch Rival, one of the top-ranked roller derby leagues in the world. Gabe instantly falls in love with the sport’s roughness, intensity, and open embrace of people who are literally and figuratively scarred. She soon finds community and a sense of belonging, reveling in the tattoos, glitter, and campiness.
But when Gabe suffers a catastrophic injury, she can no longer ignore the parallels between the physicality of roller derby and the unresolved trauma of her upbringing. Rendered inactive, forced to be still, Gabe realizes she needs to heal her emotional wounds as much as her physical ones; she must confront her fear and self-diminishment in order to feel truly alive.
Told with unflinching honesty and a giant dose of wonder, Brace for Impact is a tender, inspiring memoir about the everyday heroism of pursuing a life less ordinary, and the deeply human need to be at peace with who you are.
About the Author
Gabe Montesanti is a queer Midwestern roller derby player. She earned her MFA in creative nonfiction from Washington University in St. Louis. Her piece “The Worldwide Roller Derby Convention” was recognized as a notable essay in The Best American Essays. She lives in St. Louis with her wife.
“The way Gabe writes about her instinct to be gentle toward others yet strict, regimented, and disciplined toward herself is beautiful, bold, and utterly relatable. Brace for Impact helped me know myself better.”—Cameron Esposito, bestselling author of Save Yourself
“Gabe Montesanti’s story of resilience and courage is a shining example of what it looks like to chase a dream. Her willingness to confront her past, her unflinching excavation of her relationship with her body, and her persistent quest for peace are deeply inspiring.”—Alexi Pappas, author of Bravey
“Brace for Impact bursts with honest, vulnerable, lifesaving storytelling. This book helped me grow and finally understand that I belong to myself.”—Tara Schuster, author of Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies
“A riveting story of redemption, adventure, and the pursuit of joy. I finished Brace for Impact believing true change is possible, within ourselves, our families, and the world around us. . . . A stunning memoir.”—Christina McDowell, author of After Perfect and The Cave Dwellers
“An uplifting memoir of slow work towards self-acceptance, and of the healing and support Montesanti found in roller derby . . . Montesanti effectively mixes difficult self-reflection with lighter tales (derby recruitment, team practices, even a climactic trip to RollerCon).”—Library Journal
“This propulsive debut from Montesanti explores queer belonging, body image, and emotional healing through the exhilarating lens of roller derby. . . . Her bracing story veers from fraught to exuberantly cathartic. . . . This spirited coming-of-age account brims with joy and resilience.”—Publishers Weekly