Bright Lights Of Summer by Lynn Ames is a wonderful historical romance enriched with the details and facts of the time period in which it is written. If Ames had not said it was a work of fiction, I would believe this was a true story.
In 1941 Phoenix, Arizona, Theodora “Dizzy” Holser isn’t worried about the war happening in Europe or any other worldly events. The only thing she is worried about is her try-out for the World Champion P.B.S.W. Ramblers softball team. For her it is the ultimate goal, and a position on the roster is the ultimate prize. On the day of her try-out, she meets her competition in the form of a spunky red-head named Frannie. As they compete against each other, they gain mutual respect and admiration for each other’s talents. Eventually they develop a friendship, which quickly turns into a romance. But being a lesbian in Arizona in 1941 is not easy. Dizzy and Frannie must not only be conscious about possible exposure, they must also navigate the changes in the world that could impact their future together.
At one of the most dramatic times in US history, can these two women find a way to be together? Or will the world and its politics tear them apart?
The 1940s is the perfect setting for this story and its characters. In that time period, there was a change in the air for women and what was expected of them. Some wanted to continue the more traditional route of being a wife and homemaker. And others wanted to blaze their own trails. Ames is able to represent and respect both of these groups very well with her descriptions of Diz and Frannie. These women embody both styles of that time. Instead of being opposites in their views of what a woman is and can be, they complement and bring out the best in each other that neither woman expected but embraced whole-heartedly.
Diz is sixteen years old, and while she does have a passion for softball, she still embodies what was expected of a woman in that time. She is a little shy, self-conscious, and she has her whole life already planned out, which includes getting a job as a librarian and getting married someday. It’s what she knows and what she was raised to believe would happen. Once Frannie enters her world, however, she suddenly sees that there are possibilities that she never considered.
Frannie represents the individuality women are pursuing around this time in history. She is confident, independent, and, according to Diz, a real spitfire. She’s had a tough life and Ames does well to make that a part of who she is yet not define her as a person. While Frannie allows Diz to be brave and confident, Diz allows her to be grounded and feel like she is part of something special.
The Writing Style
I love how Ames uses the interview/flashback format to tell this story. While the interview is established at the beginning, Ames is very careful not to let it overtake and distract from Diz and Frannie’s tale. She uses it sparingly and only re-introduces it when absolutely necessary, such as when Diz needs to progress the timetable. It’s a clever way to tell this detailed historical romance without having the story become obscene in length.
While this is a romance story, it is also a pretty accurate historical account of the sport of softball and the women who played it in the 1940s. Like most people, I have seen the movie “A League of Their Own,” yet I always knew that artistic licensing was applied to the making of that film. Ames does a good job of filling in the gaps and giving a more accurate account of the league’s development, as well as the rules and regulations that were presented to facilitate a non-lesbian image among the players. What makes all this detail so pleasing is that it doesn’t deter from Diz and Frannie’s story. All of it is very intricate and important to the development of these characters and the journey they go through together.
This isn’t a big thing, but I liked how in the first chapter I didn’t know the name of the interviewer. I felt that if Ames was able to continue to withhold that little detail, it would’ve truly made it just Diz and Frannie’s story without outside influence or prompting. That being said, I do love how Ames used the interviewer minimally through the story and allowed Diz to relive her favorite, and heartbreaking, moments with Frannie.
If you love softball and wanted to know the history of the sport, especially around the time the A.A.W.B.L. was formed, this is the best reference you can have. In addition, you learn more about the actual players and women who lived in that time because Ames pulls them straight from history and has them interact with the characters she created. It makes you wish that Diz and Frannie were real people you could meet, talk to, and learn from them about what it was like to love in a time when it was hard to do so.
Excerpt from Bright Lights of Summer by Lynn Ames
“It’s softball. And where there’s softball, at least nowadays, there are lesbians.” Julie met Diz’s eyes. “I couldn’t believe that there wouldn’t have been any players back then that were gay. So, I started researching.”
“I’m sure you didn’t find any mentions of that in old newspaper articles or write-ups.” Diz’s eyes twinkled.
“No, I sure didn’t. but I did find a couple of interesting present-day items that told me I was on the right track.”
“Obituaries,” Just said. She reached into her bag, grabbed a folder, and pulled out a photocopied newspaper clipping. “First I found an obit for Ricki Caito. That one listed Dot as her longtime companion.” Julie slid the document across the table for Diz to see.
“What is it you want from me?”
“While I started out just wanting to know about my mother and her time playing softball, I can see now that there’s a more interesting story that needs to be told, one that’s so obviously different than the perception created by the movie. That’s why Dot pointed me in your direction.”
“I see. So, have I been wasting your time for the past two hours, not giving you what you need?”
“Are you kidding me?” Julie gently squeezed Diz’s hand. “You gave me exactly what I was looking for. That was an incredible memory.”
“But what you really want to talk about is what it was like to be gay back then. You want to talk about me and Frannie.”
Julie leaned forward, obviously warming to the subject. “I want to hear all of it – the game, the times, being gay back then, your relationship. I’m guessing all of those things are intertwined for you. Are they?”
“Are you going to be okay talking about it with me?” Julie asked.
“I guess that depends on what kinds of questions you have.”
“I don’t want to ask you anything you don’t want to answer.”
Diz pursed her lips in thought. “Well, Hell’s bells. I’m eighty-nine years old. What do I care what people thing anymore? Truthfully, it will be a relief to talk about it.”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781936429103
- Publisher: Phoenix Rising Press