What You Become in Flight: A Memoir

Ellen O’Connell Whittet. Melville House, $17.99 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-61219-832-3
In this somber debut memoir, former ballet dancer Whittet reflects on her days as a young ballerina in California, the spinal injury that snuffed out her career prospects at 19, and her new life as a writer. Ballet had consumed Whittet from childhood: “As soon as I was walking I was dancing,” she writes. The book’s first half details her rigorous classical dance training; the pain she routinely battled from sprains and tears; the psychological toll of being in the spotlight (she contended with anorexia); and the trauma that came after her dance partner dropped her during a rehearsal, an accident that resulted in a fractured spine. The book’s second half—about the author trying to find a new calling after injury and rehab—is less gripping. Whittet discusses going to graduate school for writing, seeing a therapist to help her get over a fear of snakes, and falling in love with her husband. Those looking for a memoir about ballet may feel short changed, as much of this book is not about dancing but rejecting the role of a “quiet, acquiescent ballerina” who claims a “new voice” as a writer. While Whittet’s memoir doesn’t fully satisfy, it certainly entices. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/07/2020
Release date: 04/14/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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