REVIEW: The Sugarless Plum by Zippora Karz
Dear Ms. Karz,
First of all, this is a great title! I didn’t grow up wishing to be a ballerina. In fact I never even took dance classes of any kind when I was growing up. And since, when I’m on the dance floor, I can only dream of being as graceful as a hippo on roller skates, it’s probably a good thing. I’m sure my efforts would have turned any dance teacher to serious drink. But I love to watch those who can dance do it and that goes double for ballet. You say that being a great ballerina is a mix of tough athleticism and effortless grace and I can believe it.
I also love seeing and reading about “behind the scenes” whether it’s ballet, bull riding or opera. So when I was looking around the eharlequin site a while ago, the title of your book grand jetéd out at me. But wait, it is about more than your life as a corps de ballet member, then soloist, at the NYCB. It’s about your diagnosis of diabetes and how you managed to not only live with the disease but continue dancing for years with it.
To say I’m awed with the effort and discipline it took to get you accepted into the School of American Ballet then become a member of the NYC Ballet is an understatement. The descriptions of taking early morning classes, followed by hours of rehearsals which were then usually topped off by an hour or three of performances, six days out of the week, are grueling just to read about. And then you also had to look pretty and peppy and floating like thistledown while doing it too. I’d like to see professional football or basketball players manage that!
Reading about your early struggles with controlling diabetes brings home the fact that the medical profession has made enormous strides in treating and living with the disease in only the past thirty years. I groaned at the bad advice you got over the years and marveled that you could keep up your dancing schedule while having insulin dependent diabetes and not taking any insulin. I sighed with relief when things finally turned around for you and I can totally understand the reluctance to believe the severity of the disease and how much effort it takes to live with it successfully. Major life changes are never easy even when you accept them and want to do them. Since unfortunately diabetes is on the rise, I appreciate the references and resources you list at the end of the book.
Most of all I’m impressed by your honesty in the telling of your story. Some parts aren’t flattering to you and others are difficult to read as you initially flounder with diabetes and your dancing suffers because of it. I can see the wisdom of years that are probably behind such stark willingness to show the good and the bad. I think the book can be read not only by aspiring dancers trying to learn what it takes to succeed but also by those initially overwhelmed by their diagnosis who need to see that it’s possible to cope with and incorporate it into their daily lives and keep going. My kitty was also pleased to see the role yours have taken in your life. Yeah, gotta get the kitty reference in there.
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