Book Review: ‘Venus & Serena: Serving from the Hip’ with Hilary Beard

Venus & Serena: Serving From The Hip: 10 Rules For Living, Loving and Winning. By Venus and Serena Williams, with Hilary Beard. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 2005. 133 pages, illustrated with color photos throughout, no index. ISBN 139780618576531. Available from Amazon.com for $11.20.

Girls today have more opportunities to reach for the heights than ever before – not only to make a career in sports such as tennis, basketball, and car racing, but also as scientists, inventors, politicians, explorers, and soldiers. At the same time, as soon as they reach television or music listening age they are continuously bombarded with negative female images.

> Women are only valuable as sex objects.

> It’s more important to have a boyfriend than an education.

> If your man cheats on you blame the other woman, not him, and by no means give him up.

> Women can only be happy if they are mothers, even if they can’t afford to be.

Situation comedies are as bad as the commercials, with their emphasis on verbal abuse as a socially acceptable form of communication.

It’s more important than ever, therefore, for girls these days to have strong role models, and tennis players Venus and Serena Williams fill the bill. They are stars both on and off the courts, both as rivals, sisters, and human beings.

They share their views of life in this book aimed at young teens. They present ten ‘rules for living, loving and winning’ and then expand on each one with examples from their own lives. They call these “the Sister Rules.”

1. Beware of Dream Stealers
– Don’t just daydream, and don’t let others steal your vision.

2. Why School is Cool
– Book smarts get you life smarts.

3. Respect Yourself
-Make choices that keep the peace and make you feel proud of how you represent yourself.

4. Hang With An Incredible Crew
-Your performance improves because there are inspiring people around you.

5. Be True – To You
-There’s no need to be afraid of hanging out with yourself

6. Don’t Rush A Crush
-Boyfriends and girlfriends come and go, but friendships last forever.

7. Love the Skin You’re In
-Health comes in all shapes and sizes. You don’t have to look a certain way to be in shape..

8. All About the Money, Honey
-Bling-bling isn’t everything. When it comes to cash, it’s better to stash than flash.

9. Step Back, Setbacks
-Stay focused on your dreams; keep your spirits high and your head in the game of life!

10. It’s Better to Give
-You don’t have to be rich or famous to share your blessings with others.

This is a fun book. The layout is colorful, and there’s lots of photos of the sister’s kicking butt on the tennis court, and hanging out in real life. It’s written in easy, conversational language, as if they’re talking to you personally, as if you’re a friend. They cite examples from their own careers and personal lives to illuminate each rule.

There are plenty of inspirational quotes:

“To make it to the top, you have to stick to your goal no matter what.”
“When we’re off the court, being well educated helps us handle our business dealings.”
“Don’t let others trick you into believing that being educated isn’t cool.”

Some readers might be turned off because all this excellent advice is given in the form of ‘rules.’ Some teenagers – and adults as well – love to rebel for the sake of it and the word ‘rule’ will raise a red flag. But if they can get past that to the genuineness beneath…they are the people who can most benefit from this manual for success in life.

Some reviewers of this book have criticized it because the sisters mention God, the Bible, and their religious beliefs. But they certainly don’t beat you over the head with it, and one does not feel that they’re trying to convert anyone – only show how their beliefs have enriched their own lives. You don’t need to be religious to benefit from the life view presented here.

Highly recommended for everyone – boy or girl, teen or adult.

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