Friday, July 31, 2015

Four Fabulous Recent Reads

In my nomadic travels, I am currently in Ohio and my Ohio library has one of the best YA sections I've seen. It was by this train of luck that I picked up three stellar new releases that all lived up to their reputations.

UNDER A PAINTED SKY by Stacey Lee was a historical fiction I could fall in love with. And I did! It's diverse and messy and full of heart.

SAINT ANYTHING by Sarah Dessen. Let me just say, there is a reason we call Sarah Dessen the Queen of YA. I learn something new about myself with every book of hers that I read. She isn't afraid to tackle big issues and deep relationships and it makes her books the kind that burrow into your soul.

THE CEMETERY BOYS by Heather Brewer. This book was creepy and fun and sad and insightful. It wasn't quite what I expected but it was still a great read.

I also recently read SECOND POSITION by Katherine Locke which, although not from my local library, was a fantastic read. It will break your heart and sew it back together. And it will give you such an insight into dancers. Although not a dancer herself, Locke gets it right from the physical to the emotional and everything in between.

Each of these books undoubtedly deserved a fuller review of its own but with my 50 work week this is all I have time for. What are you guys reading this summer?

L.S. Mooney

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Misty Copeland: dancer, author, trailblazer... basically everything

About two days before Misty Copeland made history as the first black woman to hold the position of Principal with American Ballet Theatre, I finished her book, LIFE IN MOTION: An Unlikely Ballerina.

The book was a very interesting read. I remember seeing Misty on the cover of Pointe in a yellow leotard about a decade ago when she was still fresh blood in the ballet world. Her book expands the snippets from that long ago article, her transient childhood, her very late start to ballet, her struggle to find her place as a black ballerina in a world obsessed with milk white swans. However, her book is filled with hope and reflection, not bitterness or righteous anger. It was a thoughtful read. I was occasionally confused with the way she chronologically jumped around but her story is inevitably intriguing.

I have an admittedly odd perception of ballet because I grew up as one of the only white girls in an inner city ballet company filled with black, Hispanic, and occasionally Korean dancers. It never occurred to me that a swan shouldn't be black or that you can't have big boobs and still rock a lead role. The first time I saw The Nutcracker (which was with this company), Clara, the Snow Queen. Sugar Plum Fairy, and her cavalier were all black as well as most of the party girls, snow flakes, and many other corps and soloist roles. But it wasn't The Chocolate Nutcracker that Misty writes about in her book, this was the classic story, the classical choreography and costumes but it was filled with racial diversity. For ten years that was all I knew. That was my ballet world.

In my teens, I started to follow professional companies and dancers but true to my white privilege I didn't notice the contrasting lack of diversity. Then Aesha Ash left NYCB because she couldn't make it out of the corps and I finally started to take notice. I love Misty's story, I love that she is breaking the preconceptions of what ballet is and who it is for. But I admit, I still struggle to understand why she has to break them. Why, in 2015, is this still a thing? She's a phenomenal dancer, a striking stage presence - of course she should be promoted to principal along with Stella Abrera who has also long toiled in hope of reaching the top. I really cannot fathom that it was ever a question that she shouldn't play Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, she is perfect for it.

Her book really got me thinking and despite its generally positive outlook, I found myself frustrated by her experiences of discrimination or just lack of understanding by her peers and fellow professionals. I love ballet and its traditions and its idiosyncrasies but I want the larger ballet world to like my microcosm. I want colorful ballet and I don't want it to be news. I want it to be normal.


To reread or not to reread? That is the question.

I don't reread books that often. Sure, I've read the entire Harry Potter series too many times to count and a few others have snuck ...