Taking Flight by Michaela and Elaine DePrince

Taking Flight

by Michaela DeprinceElaine Deprince
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Nonfiction
Published on October 14th 2014
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover Source: Library
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"Michaela is nothing short of a miracle, born to be a ballerina. For every young brown, yellow, and purple dancer, she is an inspiration!" --Misty Copeland, world-renowned ballet dancer
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 now the youngest principal dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. 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. "A story of great courage that all women--young and old--should read." --Tina Brown From the Hardcover edition.

Michaela was born in Sierra Leone to a man and woman who both could read. This was unusual as was her father’s decision to have just one wife, especially when their only child was a girl with vitiligo. Michaela learned to speak five languages from being in their stall in the market. She was learning to read Arabic.

This all ended when the war came. Her father was shot. Her mother moved in with her brother-in-law and his wives. She refused to become another wife so she was punished with low amounts of food. She died from disease secondary to malnutrition. Michaela’s uncle sold her to an orphanage.

Because of her skin disease she was treated horribly by the female caretakers. When homes were found in the U.S., no home was found for her. Before the children could be placed, they were displaced by the war and forced to flee.

A woman who was adopting Michaela’s only friend from the orphanage decided to take her too. Because they had the same name (Mabinty) they became Mia and Michaela.

Michaela’s only possession was a picture from a magazine of a ballerina. She wanted to do that and pursued that goal singlemindedly. At age 14 she was featured in the documentary First Position. She is now dancing with the Dutch National Ballet.

The story of the DePrince family is amazing. They had two biological children and then adopted three boys with hemophilia who all eventually died of AIDS. After Mia and Michaela they adopted three other girls from Africa. I’d really like to read a book from the parents’ perspective.

This is my third book this year that is YA with a dance theme. If this book sounds good you may also want to check out Pointe and A Time to Dance.