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Tigerbelle: The Wyomia Tyus Story

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A timely memoir about world record–breaking Tyus’s 1964 and 1968 Olympic victories, amid the turbulence of the 1960s, along with contemporary reflections.

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Discussion Guide for Tigerbelle

The following is a 15-question discussion guide to enhance your reading of Tigerbelle: The Wyomia Tyus Story. For a downloadable/printable .pdf version of this guide, please click here.

Educators: a comprehensive teaching guide is available for download; please visit bit.ly/TBTeaching (note that this address is case-sensitive) to access the full teaching guide and instructions on how to request a desk copy for review.

 1. Wyomia’s parents were able to carve out a “safe haven” from the conflict and oppression of the Jim Crow South. What were the crucial elements of the shelter they created? How might their views on parenting, interracial relations, and gender have helped Wyomia to become a champion?

2. How is Wyomia’s relationship with her father different from her relationship with her mother? How does each shape her development?

3. Initially, Wyomia turned to sports as a means of coping with loss. What benefits did she accrue by managing her grief through athletic competition? What does her experience suggest about the impact of restrictions on girls and women in sports?

4. Chapter 3 contains examples of “body shaming” (the action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size) on pages 69 and 89. How are these examples similar and different? What is the effect of each? How are conventional notions of femininity expressed and resisted in the text?

5. One of the “doors” track opens for Wyomia is the gateway to international travel; she counts her trips to the USSR and Poland, to Tokyo for her first Olympics, and to Africa as a Goodwill Ambassador as major growth experiences. How were the countries that she visited different from the United States? In what ways did she grow in each of these places?

6. What aspects of Mr. Temple’s program and the women’s personalities enabled Wyomia and Edith McGuire to maintain their friendship?

7. Wyomia returned from the 1964 Olympics to a parade through the Black neighborhood of Atlanta and “college as usual.” Overall, was this lack of fanfare helpful, harmful, or a mixture of both? How did Wyomia’s perspective at the time differ from her view of these events years later? To what do you attribute this change?

8. Wyomia reflects at length on the strategies and tactics of the Civil Rights Movement in general and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in particular in chapter 5 and returns to the theme of organizing in chapters 8 and 14. According to Wyomia, what combination of organizational ingredients is most effective? How do her views on movements reflect the lessons she learned from her parents as a child?

9. Despite her injuries and temporary lack of motivation, Wyomia qualifies for the 1967 Pan American Games and the 1968 Olympics. How was she able to accomplish this feat?

10. Discuss the separate and not equal locations and conditions of the men’s and women’s training camps for the 1968 Olympics. What best explains this disparity?

11. According to Wyomia, Mr. Temple felt that political protest at the 1968 Olympics was part of the reason her groundbreaking feat was ignored; Wyomia remarks that it was either that or that she is a Black woman. Which of these two explanations makes most sense? How do they interact?

12. Throughout the book, personal growth is an important concept to Wyomia. After retiring from Olympic competition, how does she nurture her own growth? Why does she feel it is important to “bring her children South”?

13. Why was working as a naturalist for the Los Angeles Unified School District the perfect job for Wyomia? How did it bring her full circle?

14. Part of Mr. Temple’s legacy is the Tigerbelle’s network of mutual support. Where else in the book is mutual support significant? How does it fit in to Wyomia’s ideas about organizing?

15. At the end of the book, Wyomia discusses what has changed and what has remained the same for Black women, women in general, Black people in general, and society as a whole. How would you characterize her outlook? In your view, is her outlook justified?