Recently, I finished reading Taking Flight, a 249-page memoir by Michaela DePrince. Michaela DePrince is a 22-year-old dancer with the Dutch National Ballet company. She was featured in the film First Position, following teens competing in the YAGP, or Youth America Grand Prix, the biggest ballet competition in the world. Michaela placed in her category and was given many opportunities after First Position was released in 2012. I chose this book because I have watched First Position a few couple times and I love Michaela DePrince. She is extremely talented and inspiring; I wanted to read her story.
In Taking Flight. Michaela explains her life before ballet (and even the United States.) Michaela DePrince, once named Mabinty Bangura was born in Sierra-Leone, where she lived with her birth parents. They loved her with every ounce of themselves, no matter who said that girls weren’t as useful or smart as boys. One day a man came to Mabinty’s village to tell them that there had been many people killed by rebels at their workplace, and her father was one of them. Mabinty was heartbroken, but her heart completely shattered when her mother fell ill and died, causing Mabinty to move in with her evil uncle. Mabinty’s beloved parents were gone, and she had to live with her uncle that believed she was a devil child due to the spots on her skin. Mabinty was sent to an orphanage and soon became #27. The least favorite. One day Mabinty found a magazine cover of a ballerina, kept it because her dream was to become just like the girl in the picture, and she didn’t lose hope. She lived her life with her best friend Mabinty Suma, and they were then both adopted by an American family. Mabinty still wanted to be a ballerina and didn’t give up even though people said “black girls can’t dance ballet” or when people despised her for her spots. Now named Michaela DePrince, she fought. She fought for what she wanted and didn’t stop until she reached her goal. And she did. She even met her ballerina. (From the magazine cover.)
Michaela tells a story of love, hope, strength, determination, and so much more. Her passion for ballet and strive for accomplishing her goals inspires many people and has even from First Position.
I was surprised by her life story while being an orphan in Sierra-Leone. I was shocked at some of the cruel things that occurred in her village. Michaela was and is such a strong figure. Reading about her life before becoming a world-known ballerina was surprising in many ways, and unlike anyone else’s story that I have heard.
I loved that Michaela wrote this book in a format that was as if she was talking to the reader. This made it so much more interesting and made the reader feel like you were talking to Michaela DePrince herself. But, I honestly can’t say that I disliked anything from this book, because I read until the last page, including acknowledgments; which I never do.
I was inspired by this book because it showed how hard work and dedication can make you reach your goals. It also taught me that strength is one of the most important things in life. If Michaela had stayed in Sierra-Leone for one more day she most likely would have died. But she didn’t because she was strong. And she was strong when people said she wouldn’t be a professional ballerina. She reminded herself of little Mabinty Bangura holding the dance magazine and didn’t stop until she reached her goal.
One of my many favorite passages in Taking Flight is on the very first page, where Michaela is in the wings waiting to perform on stage as the Black Swan:
“A sense of unreality grips me. A professional ballerina…is that really me? It seems that just yesterday I was an orphan child, a small, dirty-faced pikin–hungry, frightened, and clinging for dear life to a dream of becoming a ballerina.” (Prologue, Page 1)
I like this passage because it shows how much Michaela’s life changed due to her determination. She was told that she couldn’t dance as the Black Swan; she did. She had a slight chance of survival due to the conditions in Africa; she survived. She was told that she couldn’t be a ballerina because of the color of her skin and her spots; she became a ballerina.
I rate this book a 10/10.