• Paperback: 240 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 2, 2018)
In Marjorie Herrera Lewis’s debut historical novel the inspiring true story of high school teacher Tylene Wilson—a woman who surprises everyone as she breaks with tradition to become the first high school football coach in Texas—comes to life.
“A wonderfully touching and beautiful story…Tylene makes me laugh, cry, and cheer for her in ways I have not done in a long time.”—Diane Les Bocquets, bestselling author of Breaking Wild
Football is the heartbeat of Brownwood, Texas. Every Friday night for as long as assistant principal Tylene Wilson can remember, the entire town has gathered in the stands, cheering their boys on. Each September brings with it the hope of a good season and a sense of unity and optimism.
Now, the war has changed everything. Most of the Brownwood men over 18 and under 45 are off fighting, and in a small town the possibilities are limited. Could this mean a season without football? But no one counted on Tylene, who learned the game at her daddy’s knee. She knows more about it than most men, so she does the unthinkable, convincing the school to let her take on the job of coach.
Faced with extreme opposition—by the press, the community, rival coaches, and referees and even the players themselves—Tylene remains resolute. And when her boys rally around her, she leads the team—and the town—to a Friday night and a subsequent season they will never forget.
Based on a true story, When the Men Were Gone is a powerful and vibrant novel of perseverance and personal courage.
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Tylene Wilson was born and bred in Texas, a football fan through and through. More than that, she fully understood the game and the players thanks to her father's lessons. Tylene is now the assistant principle in Brownwood, TX, the year is 1944 and most of the men have gone to war, including some of her students and their football coach. Tylene knows the importance of football for the boys and the town; with the threat of the football season being cancelled, she is determined to find a worthy coach for her boys. After scouring the town, she finds that the best football coach may be herself. Although the decision to take on coaching the football team was a tough on Tylene, it is even more difficult for those around her to accept that a woman will be coaching football.
When the Men Were Gone is a heartfelt story of a real woman in our history, Tylene Wilson. Though her actions may not have helped to win the war, she showed immense bravery and compassion as she stepped up to do a job that not many believed she could do while protecting the male students from leaving for war too early and reinvigorating her small town. Tylene's story is so genuinely portrayed using many facts from her life told to the author by Tylene's grand-niece. Sharing the connection of being a female football coach, author Marjorie Herrara Lewis was easily able to relate with what Tylene must have been feeling as she navigated through a job that only men had previously done. I am not really a football fan, however Tylene's passion for the game and her students carried me through the story as well as the author's understanding of the game and ability to describe what is happening. I could feel Tylene's need to keep the boys safe over her need to prove herself as a coach among the men. Her personal story was touching and I could see how she saw all of the football team as her own sons. I was surprised at just how much opposition she faced when she decided to take on coaching, but even more surprised at how much support she received as well.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Marjorie Herrera Lewis knew early on she wanted a career related to sports. After several years at small newspapers, at age twenty-seven she began working at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Soon after, she was named a beat writer for the Dallas Cowboys and eventually joined the Dallas Morning News sportswriting staff. While writing When the Men Were Gone, she became inspired to try her hand at coaching football and was added to the Texas Wesleyan University football coaching staff. She presently teaches media ethics at the University of North Texas.
Find out more about Marjorie at her website, and connect with her on Twitter.