Center Center: A Funny, Sexy, Sad Almost-Memoir of a Boy in Ballet

James B. Whiteside. Viking, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-0-593-29783-4
Whiteside, a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater, pours out his soul in a debut that’s deeply resonant—but no less raunchy for it. Through essays that jeté gracefully back and forth through time, Whiteside lays bare his Connecticut youth spent in a splintered family, his turbulent path toward coming out as a young gay ballet dancer in the 2000s, and a litany of misadventures in New York City with his feted drag coterie, the Dairy Queens (“we pole danced, we did splits in the grass... our antics were a hit”). The emotional core is firmly located in “Nancy,” a novella-length biography of Whiteside’s “brilliant, complicated, unicorn of a mother” that is breathtaking in its vulnerability and tenderness as it chronicles her triumph over alcoholism and two divorces, and her determination to live like “a Greenwich socialite” until she died of cancer at age 68. The tone is not always so consistent; Whiteside’s forays into purely comic writing—such as one essay about an imagined hookup with Jesus Christ on Grindr—land with a thud in comparison to the memoir. Even with its bumpy delivery, this entertaining account is easy to devour. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 04/30/2021
Release date: 08/17/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 1 pages - 978-0-593-29784-1
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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