cover image Dances


Nicole Cuffy. One World, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-593-49815-6

An African American ballerina battles racial profiling and personal demons in Cuffy’s brilliant debut novel (after the chapbook Atlas of the Body). At 22, Celine “Cece” Cordell gets the biggest break of her career when she’s promoted to principal dancer at the New York City Ballet. Surrounded by white dancers, she is immediately considered a trailblazer by the media. The newfound attention is spoiled, though, after her lover and fellow troupe dancer cheats on her with another performer just as Cece learns she is unexpectedly pregnant. Then, her beloved yet troubled older brother, Paul, who first encouraged her dancing, goes missing. Paul has struggled with a drug addiction, and Cece, fearing he might have died, travels to South Carolina to find him. A ballet dancer herself, Cuffy brings grace, control, and vigor to her prose. Through Cece’s trials, the story movingly explores the secrets and inner demons of a performer who struggles with artistic competition, betrayal, guilt, family, and “the ever-present weight” of her race. Indeed, as Cece acknowledges, “the ballet body is an intimidating mystique.” Readers will be enchanted. Agent: Heather Carr, Friedrich Agency. (May)