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The Hard Parts

A Story of Courage and Triumph

Contributions by Cassidy Randall / Read by Emily Tremaine / With Oksana Masters

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About The Book

'Gripping, powerful and inspiring' - TONY HAWK

'Heart-wrenching and extraordinary' - ARIANA NEUMANN

The remarkable and inspirational story of Oksana Masters, who was born with radiation-induced birth defects and suffered appalling abuse as an orphan, before being adopted and moving to the US, where she went on to triumph over her challenges to win ten Paralympic medals in four different sports.

Oksana Masters was born in the shadow of Chernobyl, with one kidney, a partial stomach, six toes on each foot, webbed fingers, no right bicep and no thumbs. Her left leg was six inches shorter than her right, and she was missing both tibias. Relinquished to the orphanage system by birth parents daunted by the staggering cost of their child’s medical care, Oksana encountered numerous abuses, some horrifying. Salvation came at the age of seven when Gay Masters, an unmarried American professor who saw a photo of the little girl and became haunted by her eyes, waged a two-year war against stubborn adoption authorities to rescue Oksana from her circumstances.

In America, Oksana endured years of operations that included a double leg amputation. Still, how could she hope to fit in when there were so many things making her different? As it turned out, she would do much more than fit in. Determined to prove herself and fuelled by a drive to succeed that still smouldered from childhood, Oksana triumphed in not just one sport but four - winning against the world’s best in rowing, biathlon, cross-country skiing and road cycling competitions.

This is Oksana’s astonishing story of journeying through a series of dark tunnels - and how, with her mother’s love, she finally found her way into the light. Her message to anyone who doesn’t fit in: you can find a place where you excel and where you have worth.

About The Author

Photograph by The Players' Tribune

Oksana Masters was born in Ukraine in 1989 and faced numerous physical challenges due to utero radiation poisoning from Chernobyl. After living in three orphanages, Oksana was adopted at the age of seven and moved to the US. Over the course of seven years, she would have both legs amputated and endure a host of other surgeries. At thirteen she began rowing and brought home the first of ten Paralympic medals in four different sports in the London Paralympics. In 2020, she won the Laureus World Sports Award in the category of 'Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability'. She has been featured in such publications as Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, and the Players Tribune as well as appearing in advertising campaigns for brands run by Kim Kardashian (Skims) and Rihanna (Fenty).

About The Reader

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio UK (February 21, 2023)
  • Runtime: 10 hours and 57 minutes
  • ISBN13: 9781398519954

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Raves and Reviews

'Unexpectedly powerful...I couldn't put this memoir down. It's as true a tale of grit as I've ever heard, with a message filled with triumph and beauty - that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, if we are loved.'

– Angela Duckworth, internationally bestselling author of Grit

'The Hard Parts takes us from heartache to courage, from crushing disabilities to exemplary talents, from hopelessness to sky-high aspiration. Here is a young woman who persists with a fierce, undeniable optimism, no matter how devastating the challenges she has faced. Add to this timely story Oksana’s beginnings within the tragic backdrop of a Ukrainian orphanage. A hero lives among us.'

– Diana Nyad, author of Find a Way

'Heart wrenching and extraordinary. The Hard Parts is a remarkable memoir of coping with trauma, but it's mostly about courage and achieving the impossible. I'm completely in awe of Oksana and her resilience – what an inspiration.'

– Ariana Neumann, author of When Time Stopped

'A gut-wrenching, wildly inspiring story about overcoming the most daunting obstacles through steely tenacity, sheer will and a great big dose of motherly love.'

– Jeannette Walls, bestselling author of The Glass Castle

'Gripping, powerful and inspiring. As a fellow athlete, I appreciate the commitment and discipline it takes to succeed, but Oksana is on another level altogether.'

– Tony Hawk, 16-time X Game Medallist in skateboarding

'Like all the greats, Oksana lives on the edge of fear and uses every setback she’s ever had to ask more of herself. A revealing parting of the curtain, The Hard Parts is a candid - and often poignant - account of the challenges Oksana overcame along the way to becoming the best ever, and it’s more inspiring than words could ever convey.'

– Mikaela Shiffrin, two-time Olympic Gold Meda'list and four-time Overall World Cup Ski Champion

'A book of rare quality... In these pages, not only does Oksana Masters triumph over tremendous odds but her victories are so multiple and her courage crosses so many different fronts that she forces us to rethink the term "Greatest Ever". Move aside GOATS and make a place for her.'

– Sally Jenkins, sports columnist for the Washington Post

'Oksana Masters’ riveting journey of survival, perseverance and triumph is much more than an uplifting sports story. From the darkness and despair of life in a Ukrainian orphanage to the top of the Paralympic medal podium, Masters has written a story for our times. She is a remarkable athlete. She is a heroic and trailblazing woman.'

– Christine Brennan, USA Today columnist, author of Best Seat in the House

'Oksana's story is emotionally pounding, from her Dickensian childhood in Ukraine's orphanages to promising her mother a gold medal in the Paralympics. The Hard Parts is a street-fight for survival, then success. And it stretches our own notions of just how much we can take.'

– Lesley Visser, Hall of Fame Sportscaster


– Donald McRae, Guardian

'It’s a story of horror and heroism, of hate and love, of piercing pain and immense, euphoric joy'

– Irish Independent

'The book is by turns difficult to read and to put down; "triumph over adversity’ barely covers it"'

– Telegraph

‘proves how little most of us know about genuine determination. . . The Hard Parts is shocking only in how it tends to understate the author’s pure bravery’

– The Times, Books of the Year

Awards and Honors

  • ALA Alex Award

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