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The Swans of Harlem by Karen Valby
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The Swans of Harlem

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The Swans of Harlem by Karen Valby
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Apr 30, 2024 | ISBN 9780593820445 | 600 Minutes

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Praise

A Most Anticipated Book of the Year from the Washington Post and Cosmopolitan

“Karen Valby’s The Swans of Harlem brings to life the stories of Black dancers whose contributions to the world of ballet were silenced, marginalized, and otherwise erased. Karen introduces readers to important figures of our past, while inspiring us to courageously chase our dreams. This is the kind of history I wish I learned as a child dreaming of the stage!”
-Misty Copeland, New York Times-bestselling author of Black Ballerinas: My Journey To Our Legacy

“These five original Dance Theatre of Harlem ballerinas fell in love with an art form that most of America believed was white and should remain so. Upon Arthur Mitchell’s founding of an all-Black company in 1969, they eagerly took their places at the barre and challenged themselves to the utmost. They triumphed. They showed that Blacks could not only excel at classical ballet but could also shape the art in their own vibrant image. Karen Valby weaves their stories together as a choreographer would: the women form an ensemble, yet each gets her own riveting solo. It’s thrilling to watch as they join forces at last and claim their unique place in American ballet’s past, present and future.”
Margo Jefferson, author of Constructing a Nervous System

“Until Valby’s utterly absorbing, flawlessly-researched book, I never knew the story of the original Dance Theatre of Harlem ballerinas—and now, I demand that their lives be taught in schools! Valby finally sheds light on these towering dance pioneers, all of whom triumphed as dancers in a world that didn’t believe Black people had a place in the classical art form. Vibrant, propulsive, and inspiring, The Swans of Harlem is a richly drawn portrait of five courageous women whose contributions have been silenced for too long!”
Tia Williams, New York Times-bestselling author of Seven Days in June

“Vibrant…A captivating corrective to an often-whitewashed history.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“A skilled storyteller with an eye for significant details and thematic complexity…[A] dynamic, tumultuous, and inspiring journey of the five central ballerinas, the book is deeply researched and full of heart. A rich, detailed, and complex history of Harlem’s first prima ballerinas.”
Kirkus

“There is joy in the way the women discuss their decades-long friendships and trailblazing performances in this book. Valby gives each dancer space for their stories to naturally flow, writing them as fully realized individuals with their own hopes and dreams…Heartwarming.”
—Library Journal

“For those who love Hidden Figures and are interested in dance and culture…Captivating, rich in vivid detail and character, and steeped in the glamor and grit of professional ballet, The Swans of Harlem is a riveting account of five extraordinarily accomplished women, a celebration of their historic careers, and a window into the robust history of Black ballet, hidden for too long.”
Texas Lifestyle Magazine

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