Book Club: How Billie Jean King overcame every barrier

Wearing all white, Billie Jean King runs and reaches with a tennis racket to hit a shot at the net while a ball boy watches.
Billie Jean King hustles at the 1972 U.S. Open to hit a backhand volley in this photo featured in her new memoir, “All In.”
(Bettmann/Bettmann / Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to the L.A. Times Book Club newsletter.

Growing up in the 1950s in Long Beach, Billie Jean King dreamed about being a professional tennis player while her kid brother set his sights on a baseball career.

“My mom and dad were strict and conservative in many ways, but they also told my brother and me we could be anything we wanted to be,” King writes in “All In,” her upcoming memoir. “When Randy, who is five years younger than me, announced at the dinner table one night that he also intended to be a pro athlete — a Major League Baseball player — both my parents covered their faces with their hands, then peered out through their fingers with a look that said, Not you, too?


Mom was already driving me to tennis matches all over Long Beach and beyond. My dad later said we wore out three cars between Randy and me.”

In this Chapter 1 excerpt, King talks about saving $8.29 to buy her first racket and how both siblings’ dreams came true. She notes that the term “snowplow parent” hadn’t been invented yet. “But it wouldn’t have applied to my folks anyway. They supported us but never pushed us to be sports stars.”

King joins the L.A. Times Book Club on Aug. 24 in conversation with Times Executive Sports Editor Christian Stone.

A photo of Billie Jean King and the book cover for her memoir, "All In: An Autobiography."
(Roger Erickson | Knopf)

Get tickets on Eventbrite for this special event, which starts at 6 p.m. PT and will stream on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. Share the questions you’d like to ask King in advance by email to

“All In” will be published on Tuesday, Aug. 17. The book details King’s groundbreaking tennis career, her victory over Bobby Riggs in the 1973 Battle of the Sexes and her lifelong battles for gender equity, civil rights and LGBTQ rights.

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What to know about applying to college

Times Education reporter Teresa Watanabe leads a timely webinar for students and parents navigating the uncertain college landscape this fall.

On Aug. 26, Watanabe will be joined by Gary Clark, UCLA’s director of undergraduate admission, and April Grommo, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management services at the California State University Office of the Chancellor.


Watanabe, Clark and Grommo will share tips and advice on how to get ready for the college admissions season. The discussion will include updates on applying to California universities and colleges, key planning dates for the 2021-2022 school year and what’s changed as campuses reopen this fall.

The Aug. 26 event starts at 6 p.m. PT. Sign up on Eventbrite.

The college webinar is the latest edition of We Can Teach You That, a virtual event series where Times staffers and other experts help readers explore new subjects and interests from the comfort of home.

From the WCTYT archives: Genevieve Ko shows you how to make a family cookbook.

Keep reading

What came after Japanese American internment? In “Clark and Division,” Naomi Hirahara spins a crime saga set in the aftermath of World War II as detention centers closed and families landed in the heart of Chicago. “‘Clark and Division” puts Japanese American characters at the center of the story — and the crime, writes Paula L. Woods. “To say more would diminish the joy of immersing oneself in Hirahara’s deeply felt, meticulously researched tale.”

A smiling woman wears a multicolored blouse.
Mystery writer Naomi Hirahara.
(Mayumi Hirahara)

Rewilding wisdom: As species vanish, Charlotte McConaghy’s new novel asks: Can “re-wilding” help civilize humans? Our February book club author returns with “Once There Were Wolves.”

An iconic bond: What makes the new “Horse Girls” anthology such a moving read, says reviewer Margaret Wappler, is how it explodes ingrained ideas. “Horse girls can be queer, nonbinary, Asian or Black or Latinx or multiracial,” Wappler writes. “They can be middle class (like me) or poor. “

Why I write: “I was crazy about the outdoors, but I was also crazy about poetry, and the two threads kind of wound together. Lyricism and love of wild places propelled me into this life,” says novelist Peter Heller. His new book is “The Guide,” a thriller that unfolds at an elite fishing lodge in Colorado.

International Fiction: This summertime roundup will transport you to Cape Town, São Paulo, Rome and Port-au-Prince, via The New York Times.

Yes, there’s a soundtrack: Dolly Parton is teaming up with bestselling author James Patterson to write a novel, “Run, Rose, Run,” set in Nashville. Parton will simultaneously release a 12-song original album of the same name.

Essential reading. As Orange County Public Libraries turn 100, librarians asked 100 local authors to share an all-time favorite book. “It’s been a rewarding exercise to think back on the books I’ve loved, but picking one book above all the rest?” says author and editorial writer Karin Klein. “Not sure I have a favorite; it’s like having a favorite hike when the trails are so different, special in their own way.” Klein invites readers to weigh in via the book club Facebook group.


Did you know? Vaccination clinics are available at L.A.’s Central Library. Walk-ups are welcome.

Book cover for "Breathing Fire: Female Inmate Firefighters on the Front Lines of California's Wildfires" by Jaime Lowe.
(MCD/Farrar, Strauss and Giroux/ Jeff Montgomery)

What’s next

Journalist and author Jaime Lowe joins book club readers Sept. 28 to discuss “Breathing Fire: Female Inmate Firefighters on the Front Lines of California’s Wildfires” with Times columnist Erika D. Smith.

Lowe spent five years documenting the lives of women assigned to the state’s Conservation Camp program. She tells their stories against the backdrop of climate change and California’s increasingly extreme wildfires. One of the inmate camps that Lowe visits is Malibu Conservation Camp #13, surrounded by affluent communities. The camp, she observes, is “carved into rugged mountains, shaded by oak trees, and looks more like a spiritual retreat than a state prison.”

“The women start their day with physical training, a morning hike with gear, and then to work clearing fire roads and cutting brush,” Lowe writes in this excerpt. “This type of preventive measure makes the road a containment line. It widens the area of bare soil, so that if one part of the canyon catches fire, flames won’t jump the line. That’s the logic anyway.

“There was a rhythm within the fire camp. The inmates worked hard; the captains rewarded them with the opportunity to work harder.”

This virtual book club event will stream live on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter starting at 6 p.m. Sept. 28. Sign up on Eventbrite.