Book Review: Taking Flight: From War Orphan To Star Ballerina by Michaela DePrince

Taking Flight CoverBook: Taking Flight: From War Orphan To Star Ballerina by Michaela DePrince

Published October 2014 by Knopf|249 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Non-Fiction/Memoir

What It’s About: 

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.

What I Thought:

I really liked Taking Flight!  It’s such an inspiring story, and to go from being an orphan to a ballerina and and she had to overcome so much to do that.  She’s accomplished so much, and at such a young age, and there is a part of me that feels like I’ve accomplished nothing in my life.

But I liked seeing her chronicle how hard it is to not just be a professional ballerina (which is something that just fascinates me, especially as a very uncoordinated person), but also as a minority.  She doesn’t feel sorry for herself, and she keeps going because it’s what she wants to do, and she’s very determined to not only have her dreams come true but to be a role model for future ballerinas.

Her parents and brothers are truly amazing- her parents for adopting her, and two other girls from her orphanage, and her brothers (especially Teddy) for making her feel welcome and like she was part of the family.  They are very supportive, amazing people, and it’s clear that they love each other.

We also get a lot about her childhood, which is awesome, and I wish we got a lot more about the dancing.  It did seem a little like a resume, but I’m very much interested in seeing First Position, the documentary that DePrince is a part of.  It’s been on my netflix queue for a while, but having read this book, it’s definitely going up on the list of things to watch.  And I enjoyed it so much that I really wanted it to be longer, especially since there were a few points where I felt like there could have been more detail.  I know it takes a lot of time to write a book, especially a memoir, and it’s such an inspiring story that I’m sad there isn’t more to the book.

My Rating:

4 stars.  I really liked Taking Flight, and DePrince is such an inspiration.

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