“Gutterball” by Danielle Pignataro from Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up (Bold Strokes Books, 2011).

If you’re keeping score at home this is the ninth story in the project to feature a female protagonist. Four of those were written by Steve Berman and this one is from a book he edited.

And now back to our game.

I have never before read a story about a protagonist who bowls, much less a teenaged female protagonist who does, but I have to say, I really enjoyed the experience. I bowled for a couple of years during late elementary school, as part of a YMCA class that developed into a sort of stand-alone league. The same kids kept signing back up, and it became just sort of a (Once a week? Twice a week? I don’t even know anymore) thing.

Anyway, I’ve always felt like the odd man out, so I could relate when the protagonist found herself under attack by a member of a rival bowling team. The other girl decides to make an issue of the fact that our heroine is a lesbian, and makes just enough of a scene to (she hopes) embarrass and rattle the main character without landing herself in hot water with adults. The thing she doesn’t count on, though, is that the girl she has attacked is going to a.) stand up to her, and b.) take the high road in how she does it. Oh, and the attacker also doesn’t figure that all of the main character’s team members and their families and friends are also going to stand up to her and with the girl she’s trying to crush, but they do. Five days ago when I saw the pictures of the University of Massachusetts students who flooded the campus in support of basketball player Derrick Gordon, in response to the arrival of members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who, in their infinite hatred, had come to protest his very being, I immediately thought of this story. The ratio was about the same, too: twenty good guys for every villain. Hooray for life imitating art!   

I would put this book in the hands of every tween and teen in the nation if I could, because of the powerful message it contains about the importance of acceptance—of self, and of others—and also because it will make short story fans out of all who read it.