Synopses & Reviews
For readers of Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat comes the inspirational, untold story of impoverished children who transformed themselves into world-class swimmers.
1937, a schoolteacher on the island of Maui challenged a group of
poverty-stricken sugar plantation kids to swim upstream against the
current of their circumstance. The goal? To become Olympians.
faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The children were
Japanese-American, were malnourished and barefoot and had no pool; they
trained in the filthy irrigation ditches that snaked down from the
mountains into the sugarcane fields. Their future was in those same
fields, working alongside their parents in virtual slavery, known not by
their names but by numbered tags that hung around their necks. Their
teacher, Soichi Sakamoto, was an ordinary man whose swimming ability
didn't extend much beyond treading water.
In spite of
everything, including the virulent anti-Japanese sentiment of the late
1930s, in their first year the children outraced Olympic athletes twice
their size; in their second year, they were national and international
champs, shattering American and world records and making headlines from
L.A. to Nazi Germany. In their third year, they'd be declared the
greatest swimmers in the world, but they'd also face their greatest
obstacle: the dawning of a world war and the cancellation of the Games.
Still, on the battlefield, they'd become the 20th century's most celebrated heroes, and in 1948, they'd have one last chance for Olympic glory.
They were the Three-Year Swim Club. This is their story.
This rags to riches story revolves around school teacher Soichi Sakamoto who took a group of Japanese American children from a poor segregated Hawaiian sugar plantation and taught them how to be champion swimmers practicing in one of the plantation's fetid irrigation ditches. If the basis for the book doesn't sound amazing enough how the story unfolds—Japan vying for the Olympic games Pearl Harbor being bombed WWII changing the world forever—allows the story and characters to evolve in uplifting and heartbreaking ways. Debut author Checkoway is equal to the task of telling this moving narrative. From page one where she writes "Lip locking lovers perambulated... and holiday makers gathered... under Maxfield Parrish skies" it is evident that Checkoway's ability to set a scene is uncanny and accomplished. Her top notch skill as a researcher allows her to bring to life the long forgotten saga of the swim team which she fears might otherwise "simply disappear." Depicting determination discrimination hope anguish hard work and hard choices Checkoway has created a sports history that is singular in its own right and a fitting testament to the over 200 youths who swam for many reasons toward one goal: "Olympics First! Olympics Always."(Oct.) " Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
A brightly told story of the triumph of underdogs... exuberant, well-researched...tense, vivid, and inspiring." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Checkoway is an author and documentary filmmaker. She graduated from
Harvard College, the Iowa Writers Workshop, and the Johns Hopkins
Writing Seminars. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the
Arts individual artist grant and fellowships at writers' colonies,
including Yaddo. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Salt Lake Tribune, and Huffington Post.