Book Review: Taking Flight

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Prof. Tarma Amelia Black
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Book Review: Taking Flight

Postby Prof. Tarma Amelia Black » Mon Dec 25, 2017 5:06 am

Title of the book: Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina
Authors: Michaela DePrince with Elaine DePrince
Series: no
Genres: nonfiction, autobiography/memoir, biography
Short summary of the story: Mabinty Bangura was born in Africa, of loving parents, but in a war-torn area, in January 1995. First her father, then her mother, die and her uncle takes her to the orphanage. She had seen the picture of a ballerina, as a very young child, and kept it with her. That picture, and the yearning it built within her to be as that dancer, helped her to survive a deathly illness and horrible circumstances. She has a skin ailment, which she says gave her what were called 'leopard spots', and so many people did not want to adopt her. Another orphan, Mabinty Suma, was adopted and the people who took her decided to also adopt Mabinty Bangura, bringing them to the United States of America. When in the States, she is encouraged to follow her dream of dancing. This book talks about her starting to learn ballet and takes us through the time of the movie "First Position", made about people competing in the 2010 YAGP (Youth America Grand Prix) in Philadelphia, PA, to after that and what happened when the movie came out. The story includes talking about her adopted mother and father, her step-siblings and her teachers. It also talks very plainly about the attitudes of many to the idea of a black ballerina, and how she and her family acted and reacted to them. Taking Flight, published in 2014, was written in 2013, when she was 18 years old.

I absolutely loved reading this book. The strength and courage of the writer, well, of both writers (since it was written by Michaela and her mother, Elaine), the compassion and love, shines through in every page. This is not an airy-fairy story of glossing over that which is bad or evil, but talks of people surviving horrendous situations and continuing to hope and dream. And how a dream might just come true.

Goodreads writeup:
The extraordinary memoir of Michaela DePrince, a young dancer who escaped war-torn Sierra Leone for the rarefied heights of American ballet.
Michaela DePrince was known as girl Number 27 at the orphanage, where she was abandoned at a young age and tormented as a "devil child" for a skin condition that makes her skin appear spotted. But it was at the orphanage that Michaela would find a picture of a beautiful ballerina en pointe that would help change the course of her life.
At the age of four, Michaela was adopted by an American family, who encouraged her love of dancing and enrolled her in classes. She went on to study at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre and is currently a member of the Dutch National Ballet’s junior company. She has appeared in the ballet documentary "First Position," as well as on "Dancing with the Stars, Good Morning America," and "Nightline."
In this engaging, moving, and unforgettable memoir, Michaela shares her dramatic journey from an orphan in West Africa to becoming one of ballet's most exciting rising stars.
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