Bounded Enthusiasm #10: Victoria Jamieson Is a ‘Roller Girl’

Today’s episode of the Bounded Enthusiasm podcast is an interview with Victoria Jamieson about her new book, Roller Girl.

Roller GirlI’ll admit right up front–it was hard to keep my enthusiasm bounded when the advance copy of Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson arrived on my doorstep. My two older daughters and my wife have all gotten involved in roller derby over the past two years, and when we first heard that a local skater had written a kids’ graphic novel about the sport, we couldn’t wait for it to be released. Well, it’s finally here!

Roller Girl is about a 12-year-old girl named Astrid who is introduced to roller derby and immediately falls in love with it: the crazy names, the spectacular outfits, and the fierce women on wheels. But it’s also about her changing relationship with her best friend Nicole, who prefers ballet slippers to roller skates. The story does a good job of integrating these–playing roller derby helps Astrid to think about who she is and who she wants to be. I’m not sure which is harder, playing roller derby or navigating middle school social circles.

Roller Girl Excerpt
Excerpt from Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, used with permission.
Victoria Jamieson
Photo provided by Victoria Jamieson, used with permission.

Victoria Jamieson has illustrated picture books before, but Roller Girl is her first graphic novel. She writes from her own experience as a roller derby skater–she skated on the Break Neck Betties home team of the Rose City Rollers, as well as the Axles of Annihilation travel team, before taking a break for her “nine-month injury” (known in the non-derby world as pregnancy). Now she’s back on her skates again and sharing her love of roller derby through this fantastic comic book.

I interviewed Jamieson for the podcast, and we talked about how she picked her derby name (“Winnie the Pow”), what it’s like switching to a graphic novel from picture books, and why Astrid goes to “Burgertown” instead of Burgerville. You can download the MP3 here, or use the audio player here:

Dial Books sent me an advance copy in January (I mentioned it in this Stack Overflow column) and the book hasn’t been shelved yet–all of us took turns reading it, including my toddler, who’s a huge fan of roller derby herself. (She’s learned to put her fists together for the Rose City Rollers logo.)

It’s been particularly fun because the book is set here in Portland, and features some real locations and people mixed in with the fictional. For my kids, that personal connection to the subject matter quickly made Roller Girl one of their favorite books. And it doesn’t hurt that the full-color artwork is charming and there’s a compelling story that draws you in. Will Astrid get to jam in her first bout? What will she pick for her derby name? Will she and Nicole still be friends? What happens when her mom finds out she hasn’t been telling the truth? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Roller Girl excerpt
Excerpt from Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, used with permission.

Roller Girl reminds me a bit of Raina Telgemeier’s comics (like Smile and Sisters), also favorites in my household. The drawings are wonderful, the plot is fun, and the characters are realistic. In the case of Roller Girl, it’s not entirely autobiographical, but some of it was inspired by Jamieson’s own life.

Roller Girl excerpt
Excerpt from Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, used with permission.

One of the things I love most about roller derby is the way that my girls are becoming more confident. Both in the juniors program and in the adult leagues, roller derby really empowers the skaters–there are people with all different body types and sizes, and there’s no one “right” shape to be. The friendships that my kids and my wife have developed with their fellow skaters are invaluable. Plus, you should see some of the amazing stuff they can do on wheels.

Roller Girl excerpt
Excerpt from Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, used with permission.

Roller Girl captures that excitement and energy in a very user-friendly package. It’s a book I want to share with everyone, both because it’s a fun read for kids but also because, hey, maybe it’ll bring more kids into roller derby!

One note to parents of younger kids: there’s a mean girl named Rachel who has a  foul-mouthed nickname for Astrid. It surprised me the first time I read it because most kids’ books I’m used to don’t include any swearing at all, but it’s relatively minor, and only appears a few times.

Roller Girl releases today, and is available from Amazon, directly from Dial/Penguin, or check your local bookseller. For more about Victoria Jamieson, visit her website, where you can also download a free ebook about the making of Roller Girl.

If you happen to be in the Portland, Oregon, area, there is a book launch party tonight at 7pm at Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing, and another this coming Saturday (March 14) at Green Bean Books at 2pm–and my kids will be there (along with some other members from Rose City Rollers) to do a sock derby demo!

Finally, Jamieson will also be at the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia Washington on April 11 for a Hands on Comics event during spring break.

Rose City Rollers fists
My toddler demonstrates the Rose City Rollers logo. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Bounded Enthusiasm is a production of the GeekDad Podcast Network. Thanks also to Gerry Tolbert for podcast editing assistance!

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Jonathan H. Liu is a stay-at-home dad in Portland, Oregon, who loves to read, is always up for a board game, and has a bit of a Kickstarter habit.