Sunday, July 25, 2010

Memoir: Kicking Up Dirt: A True Story of Determination, Deafness, and Daring by Ashley Fiolek and Caroline Ryder

Kicking Up Dirt: A True Story of Determination, Deafness, and Daring

There's a woman in motocross. She's only 5'2 but can handle a 250cc dirt bike, is the first woman to be on a factory team, and she's deaf. She's not even old enough to drink but is handed champagne in the victory's circle to poor on her team. Her name is Ashley Fiolek, pronounced "Fy-lek, not Fee-oh-lek."

Before she was three years of age, doctors branded her "mildly retarded" and "lazy" and said her parents should stop spoiling her. Well, this chick is far from stupid. She just couldn't hear. (She was born deaf possibly due to her mother coming in contact with the German measles while pregnant.) That didn't stop her from achieving her goal and her dreams to become a pro motocross racer.

Ashley chose to follow in her father and grandfather's motorcycle tracks. Both men were motocross racers themselves, Jim Fiolek and Jim Martin Fiolek. These men had Ashley on her own little 50cc bike before she could walk. Ashley took it to the next level and after the peewee races and Loretta's track, went pro, being named "rider of the year" in 2008, winning the 08 and 09 Women's Motocross Association Championships and the 2009 X games for her category. This chick finished the 2009 race with a broken collarbone!! She also is the first woman to get a factory sponsorship with Honda.

Her autobiography chronicles not only her life as a deaf rider and the hardships that accompany her handicap, but also talks about the unequal treatment and lack of perks for women riders in motocross and supercross. I never realized how hard a struggle it was for women to get into the sport and attain the same sponsorships and treatment.

Facts from the book: Kerry Klied was the first woman to ever hold an AMA Professional Racing License - which was confiscated at a race because the AMA rules did not actually allow for women pro racers. (Thus, the WMA was born in 2008)

Doreen Payne was the first woman to race against men in a stadium race. She had to enter competitions as D. Payne so that no one would know she was a girl or she would have been disqualified.

Marlee Matlin is quoted as saying, "Ashley Fiolek’s incredible story perfectly embodies the adage ‘the only thing that deaf people can’t do is hear." That is so true. I couldn't say it better. Ashley, herself, states, "Being deaf is fine by me, and it's never stopped me from riding aggressively, like the boys. That's why the inequality in my sport has always frustrated me. In America, men get paid more, they get more practice time on the track, they get the sponsorships, the press conferences, the TV time. But things are changing every year."

They are changing thanks to Ashley.
I want to note that I got a real kick out of reading about all the women motocross racers and their competitiveness against each other. Ashley goes tire to tire with Jessica Patterson often in this memoir and I could literally feel the adrenaline boost.

I'm eager to see what both women accomplish in 2010.
Ashley's website:

All pictures were found on the internet posted by either Honda or Carl Stone. The book, I bought on Amazon.


  1. Very good review Tara, This would make a great movie I think. This is really bringing to the fore front the wage difference between men and women still in 2010. Glad to see this book.

  2. I think you are right about the movie, Janet. This sounds like a fascinating story.

  3. I think a movie would open a lot of peoples minds and bring awareness to the topic. I know the Obama administration is working on the wage difference between men and women so maybe it will change.