Most people that I encounter are aware or quickly discover that I do not come from a family background of firearms or outdoor activities. I do not have an amazing or dramatic story that motivated me to learn how to handle firearms, and honestly, I did not like them. In 2017, the state of Missouri became a constitutional carry state; I was 39-years old then. I remember thinking maybe it was time I eliminated my dislike, due mostly to lack of exposure and training with firearms, and learn how to handle a firearm safely and properly. 

Wisdom and Things: Essays From an Unlikely Champion

When Barbara Baird asked me if I’d heard of Vera Koo, and if I’d be willing to read and review her book, I didn’t hesitate. Barbara sent me “Wisdom and Things: Essays From an Unlikely Champion,” which Vera coauthored with Blake Toppmeyer.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I grabbed a cup of coffee, finished the first chapter, and immediately grabbed an erasable highlighter, and started reading the book over from the beginning. I felt like there were key points she made that I needed to pay attention to and made notes of our similarities. I began to carve time out of my days to finish reading and making notes. It had been a long time since I felt the urge to make notes as if I was still school. There were so many similarities between our journeys: we are late firearm bloomers, minority women, unsure of how to begin setting our firearm training foundations and getting past our intimidations. There were several points she discussed regarding industry issues, of which I had no personal experience but had heard tell from industry veterans. 

Page of Vera Koo book Wisdom and Things
Sharenda added many highlights to her copy of Wisdom and Things: Essays From an Unlikely Champion

I was hesitant to read a memoir, I was not certain I would appreciate the content, as previous memoirs that I have attempted tend to read robotic, leaving me bored. Vera Koo’s memoir felt as if she were having a discussion with someone, and you were fortunate enough to have seat right next to them to absorb the conversation. It is not written in chronological order, yet it flowed perfectly with the points she wanted to express and flashbacks to her journey. Her book is divided into four parts:

Part 1: Becoming a Champion.

Part 2: Getting Knocked Down? Get Up Stronger.

Part 3: A little Religion. A Little Philosophy. A Little Introspection.

Part 4: Lessons from Travel.

Sharenda with book Wisdom and Things

My most impressionable notes from Vera Koo, those that I connected deeply with were the following: 

  1. “Eventually I decided the guns weren’t inherently dangerous. My lack of knowledge made them dangerous, and I needed to educate myself.”
  2. “If you are a female shooter who is likely to face criticism as a you take on a male-dominated sport, mental toughness is critical. However, you need to not adopt a me-against-the-world mentality. For every person eager to case a stone at you, someone is willing to help you.” 
  3. “We often feel most comfortable when we are surrounded by with whom we identify.”

Even if I had not identified with her perspective, it felt intriguing to learn about her personal journey as a traditionally-raised Chinese American immigrant that began her journey at the age of 40 to become eight-time women’s division national champion at the Bianchi Cup, two-time world title champion that retired in 2018, at the age of 71. 

Ordered The Most Unlikely Champion A Memoir

I ordered her first book, “The Most Unlikely Champion: A Memoir,” to read and I am looking forward to enjoying it as much as I did this one. 

Order Wisdom and Things: Essays From an Unlikely Champion here.

This review was originally published at Women’s Outdoor News.


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