Okay, so I didn’t even read the description before picking this one up. First of all, how could I resist that title? It just feels so freeing. It makes the song Defying Gravity play through my head and I just can’t even. Then there’s the cover. She looks just exactly the way the title makes me feel. I had heard through different articles that there was a severe lack of black ballerinas, which also made this a must read for me. How could I possibly pass it up when I love women’s stories so much?
As the title suggests, DePrince began her life in a war torn country, specifically Sierra Leone. I can’t even imagine surviving what DePrince goes through before she ends up in an orphanage there, let alone what happens afterward. Her strength and resilience are astounding. I adored her adoptive parents. I get the controversy surrounding white couples adopting out of Africa, but I also get that there are children who need homes and parents to love them. The social lines are complicated but this book steers clear of that on the most part. There are some mentions of identity issues, but they are mostly outside of the family dynamic. DePrince was old enough to know where she came from and what she escaped. She seemed to have navigated the social issues there well with good guidance from her parents. The story about the braids was cute and funny.
On the other hand, DePrince does get quite a bit into the importance of representation. She mentions some of the few black ballerinas that came before her and also acknowledge the importance of being seen herself, even when it makes her uncomfortable. Putting herself out there and being seen could make all the difference for another little girl. She discusses little and big ways that racial discrimination impacted her training and career but also the places she learned to navigate around it, like the brown leggings at the Dance Theatre of Harlem. It’s amazing how something so simple can make such a difference in the way someone is perceived.
I loved her parents willingness to let all of their daughters dive into their passions. I only have one kid and I can barely get him into swim classes on a regular basis. I can’t imagine paying for swimming and ballet for three kids for so long. I can appreciate the places where they cut financial corners in order to get DePrince to where she needed to be and that it was mentioned. It gives me hope that I’ll be able to get my son into whatever he’s passionate about in a meaningful way too. Not everyone gets that opportunity.
I borrowed the audiobook from the library, read by Allyson Johnson. It’s also available over several other platforms from different outlets. Click on the cover image to be redirected to Booklikes for those options or add to Goodreads for later.