Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Dealing with Adversity: Jim Abbott and Rick Harrison

In many accounts of individuals who are handicapped, they overcome great odds to do extraordinary things. Things that would be difficult even for able bodied people. So it’s refreshing to find biographies of people whose handicaps have affected them, but have gone on to become famous for other aspects in their careers. Both Abbott and Harrison have had success in popular culture in modern America, but their handicaps have not been the centerpiece of their lives. They probably would’ve been successful anyways.

pawn starsLicense to Pawn by Rick Harrison
For anyone who enjoys the reality show “Pawn Stars”, featuring the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, USA and the people who work there. Owned by three generations of the Harrison family; the author,Rick, his son, Corey (who is sometimes called Big Hoss) and Rick’s father-The Old Man, who actually started the shop after his Navy career. Though it’s called a pawn shop, the TV program comes across as more of a hip antique show. This book gives a background to their business and biographies of each of them and for me, finally solved the mystery of how Chumlee fits into the family. Most of the book is devoted to Rick and his struggles with epilepsy as a child/young teen and later drug use. He really does know a lot about history, stemming from all of the reading he did while recovering from seizures and the fascination with old objects is genuine. Like the TV show, women are almost nonexistent in the book and I was dismayed to learn he had made many of the same child rearing mistakes as his own parents did. It’s not great literature, but it was interesting, especially since it’s about such a different lifestyle than the type I’m familiar with.
Hyperion 2011 272 pp. ISBN-13:978-1401324308 available in traditional and ebook formats

ImperfectImperfect by Jim Abbott and Tim Brown
Sports books are a dime a dozen, but what sets this autobiography apart is that it’s about a baseball player with a handicap. Born with a deformed right hand, Abbott becomes a pitcher for both the USA Olympic team and in the major leagues. Told in a series of flashbacks between innings of a no hitter game(which is rarer than you think), he chronicles his determination to become a professional baseball player through childhood games, being a high school and college sports star and going into the big leagues. Instead of being a dramatic journey of overcoming, we see his handicap from the inside, as something to be dealt with through everyday routines. We also see it from the outside, in the freak show attitudes of the public and some sports writers.
I was impressed by both the humbleness of Abbott and his realization of how his story has had an impact on disabled children and the hope he represents to them. I was also struck by his devotion to his family, which isn’t something commonly found in sports stars. He knows his children as individuals and speaks of his wife in an egalitarian way. It’s not a facade to make him look good either, as shown by the humor and everyday anecdotes.
After leaving baseball, Abbott has been a motivational speaker. I would think that his empathy and determination would make for a great foundation for that career or any other, really, that requires one to be a people person.

Ballantine Books 2012 320 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0345523259 available in traditional and ebook formats

3 comments on “Dealing with Adversity: Jim Abbott and Rick Harrison

  1. Sue Williams
    September 16, 2013

    I believe I just heard about that baseball player on tv yesterday. Might have been on the History channel. It is good to hear about these men overcoming adversity. When you live with challenges yourself, it helps to know that there are more of us out there. And dreams can come true.

  2. grace caruso
    September 16, 2013

    It is always great to see these success stories but we must remember that like the rest of us, most people with disabilities don’t have these giant talents. The majority of people with disabilities cannot find meaningful work and live on some sort of public assistance. Yes, this is true in spite of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Special Education. Sometimes this is because we have never overcome our cultural bias against people who seem different to us in some way.

  3. Murph
    September 19, 2013

    Thanks, I watch Pawn Stars and like Rick and will ask the libraru to get the book for me. I always like to know the “story” behind the “story.”

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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