Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

InI Always Wanted to Be Somebody, Althea Gibson gives a personal and colorful account of her life from the very early years on a small farm in Silver, South Carolina, through her second consecutive victory in the women’s singles tournament at Wimbledon in 1958. Her family moved north to New York City’s Harlem when she was three. She had a lively if somewhat irregular childhood, playing hooky in the streets and film theaters of Harlem, and, as she tells it, spending only an occasional day in school. Introduced to tennis in the form of the street game paddle tennis by a play supervisor, Gibson became the New York City women’s champion at paddle tennis at the age of twelve.

Most of the book recounts Gibson’s difficult but ultimately successful efforts to establish herself as both a tennis star and a unique and independent person in the changing, difficult racial climate of the 1940’s and 1950’s. During the 1940’s, lawn tennis was largely an upper-class sport, and, like most sports, it was segregated throughout the United States. African Americans played in the American Tennis Association while white players competed in the United States Lawn Tennis Association, which annually sponsored the most important American tournament, the national championship at Forest Hills. Having broken the color line by playing at Forest Hills in 1950 and in the equally prestigious British championship at Wimbledon in 1951, Gibson entered a frustrating...

(The entire section is 486 words.)