Books Reviews

Ballerina’s story inspires during a difficult time

Quito, ECUADOR – As quarantine seems to keep stretching on and people keep getting sick, lots of us have been struggling to maintain a positive attitude. I often wake up and take a quick look at the news only to find myself discouraged about the events in the world.

I feel myself getting less energized every day.

All of us are facing different challenges. Some of us are bored and lonely, others are struggling to keep their jobs.

On the other hand, some people have to fight for their survival.

Of course, some struggles are not comparable to others, but one thing is for sure: this is not easy for any of us.

After having a negative attitude over the first few weeks of quarantine, I decided to start looking at things differently.

I tried to pull in positivity from as many places as possible. That is when I remembered the book which a few years ago had made me feel better and less alone.

Hope in a Ballet Shoe is an amazing autobiography by Michaela DePrince. She is a ballerina and currently a soloist at the Dutch National Ballet.

The memoir starts with DePrince as an orphan in Sierra Leone and includes descriptions of horrible events there.

After losing her parents to war, she is left in the care of her terrible uncle, who then leaves her at an orphanage.

At the orphanage, children were ranked by preference. A skin condition called vitiligo, which causes white sports to appear on the skin is why DePrince is ranked last.

From a very young age, she has to live with hunger, lack of care and love.

One day she finds a magazine with a ballet dancer in front of her orphanage. This awakens her dream of becoming a ballerina.

But then she and her best friend Mia get adopted by an American family and her life suddenly takes a fateful twist as they move to the U.S. They have to get used to and entirely different reality.

This coming off age story shows us the life of a kid and teenager who is just like any other. She makes friends, fights with her sister and falls in love. But at the same time, the story shows all the effort DePrince puts into becoming a dancer while struggling with her past.

A ballet dancer has to sacrifice a lot in order to make it in this competitive industry and DePrince is not an exception. She trains every day and pushes through injuries.

Lots of people don’t believe DePrince can make it due to her race. Most classical ballet dancers all over the world are white. But she proves that with perseverance, other people’s opinions quickly become less important.

She proves how important it is to find one’s true passion. She is able to break loose from the racial stereotypes in the ballet world and found her voice as a young woman who has lots to share with the world.

Re-reading this inspiring story about willpower and love during the global pandemic raised my spirits.

Close to the end, the book has a quote which I think stays in any reader’s mind for a long time: “We were blessed. And with blessing comes responsibility to share.”

DePrince thinks her job in the world is to share hope, something she has carried with her since her time at the orphanage.

Anyone who is looking for a drop of positivity during this pandemic should read Hope in a Ballet Shoe.

The book uses simple language, which makes it available for young readers and non-native speakers.

While DePrince’s story is not the literary work some might be looking for, it does have a powerful message about the way we should view the world.

Especially when everything is flipped upside-down.

Aileen Cevallos is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

Leave a Comment