The Long Shot, A Book on Fighting by a Scholarly Ballerina

Katie KitamuraKatie Kitamura likes a good fight. She may have attended Princeton University and earned a PhD in English. She may be a featherweight Asian American ballerina. However, her debut book The Long Shot isn’t about pliés or the world of cutthroat academics. Instead, The Long Shot centers around a topic that one would think is distinctively out of her realm of knowledge: mixed martial arts (MMA).

The Long Shot, whose entire plot takes place in the span of only three days, revolves around former prizefighter Cal and his trainer Riley, who attempt to work their way past adversity to participate in an epic rematch against a legendary MMA fighter.

Released in August, the book generated mostly favorable reviews, with Publishers Weekly writing that Katie “brings a physicality to her story with descriptions of the action so vivid the reader feels the pain of every punch and kick”.

Although at first glance the topic seems arbitrary, Kitamura’s history makes it evident why she chose this narrative. She grew up with strict training in ballet, which affected her idea of the athlete-trainer relationship and the nature of sport. “The idea of physical strain and discipline, the question of how and when you leave that life behind — they’re things I’m familiar with on one level or another,” she said in an author interview with publishing house Simon & Schuster.

The LongshotBesides ballet, Kitamura has been an avid fan of fighting, beginning with watching games with her brother (whose knuckles adorn the book’s cover art) and later reporting on them for the New York Times. “The experience of watching a fight live is extraordinary,” she said. “I end up having a completely irrational, emotional stake in the outcome of a fight — in that sense, I’m a shameless fan.”

It’s refreshing to see a book written by a woman geared toward a subject most think is strictly masculine. Kitamura shows that we don’t have to stay in the bubble of what we know or what others expect of us, but that we can take parts of our past and mold our experiences into something completely new.

Photo courtesy of Simon & Schuster