Greetings, YABC! Today we are beyond pleased to welcome Michaela DePrince, author of Taking Flight. Her inspiring memoir offers insights into the life of a professional ballerina—but it’s the challenges she has overcome all throughout her young life that makes her story so remarkable. Michaela was kind enough to answer a few questions about her book’s paperback release! ‐‐Angela N. Blount
Michaela, thank you so much for taking the time to share a little bit more with our readers. It’s truly an honor to be able to address you.
YABC: Since the initial publication of TAKING FLIGHT, is there any feedback you’ve received on the book that has stood out to you as memorable? Did any reactions to it surprise you?
Michaela DePrince: The most memorable response that I received on TAKING FLIGHT was a customer review on Amazon.com. It was written by an 86‐year‐old retired college professor, who had lived in China during WWII. He read the book three times, and was deeply affected by it, claiming that the book changed his life. I was touched by his review, and it taught me that anything one does or says in life has the potential to greatly affect another.
The reactions that really surprise me are comments online that praise me and then turn around and criticize my parents for being “white saviors.” I find these comments to be appalling. I love my parents, I do not care what color they are, and I am the first to admit that I would not be where I am today without their generosity, love, and emotional support.
YABC: With parts of your childhood in Sierra Leone being so incredibly harrowing, it surely was hard for you to dredge up such painful memories. I am personally so grateful you put yourself through that for the sake of letting readers see into a culture and situation most of us couldn’t otherwise imagine. But background aside, what was the most difficult thing for you to share about yourself in this memoir?
MD: The hardest thing for me to share about myself in the memoir was the emotional suffering I experienced when my brother Teddy died, and the difficulty I experienced allowing myself to accept love because of my fear of losing my loved ones.
YABC: Is there any aspect of your book that you regret—either content that you included or content that you chose to leave out?
MD: I regret that TAKING FLIGHT only tells the story from my point of view. I would have preferred it if my mother had told half of the story from her point of view, making it a joint memoir. I would have liked it if she had shared my adoptive family’s story of suffering and loss before my arrival, and how she was influenced to adopt six girls from Africa because of this loss. My parents are very heroic, and I would have liked my readers to know this. However, this would have definitely resulted in a much longer book, and its content possibly would have taken the story out of the teen book category. So, I understand why our publisher recommended this version.
YABC: In your book you mention a desire to one day bring a ballet school to your country of birth. You also detail how stressful and difficult it was for you to visit South Africa for the first time, despite its distance from where you were born. Have you since come any closer to revisiting Sierra Leone?
MD: My experiences in Sierra Leone were extremely traumatic. This makes me alert and sensitive to current problems in the country: such as, the eruption of new cases of Ebola in 2016, corruption and the general disregard for law, and the increasing sexual violence there. These problems, as well as my youth and inability to exert the influence needed to fund and run a school in Sierra Leone, prevent me from coming any closer to revisiting Sierra Leone at this time. However, I do participate in efforts to improve the lives of children in Sierra Leone. Some of the profits from the UK version of my book, HOPE IN A BALLET SHOE, go towards War Child UK, and I am the ambassador for War Child Netherlands. In addition I sponsor a child from my tribe in Sierra Leone through ChildFund International.
YABC: I notice on your Wiki page that MGM acquired the film rights to your book just last year. Congratulations! Has there been any more news or movement on that front that you might be legally able to share?
MD: I am able to share very little at this point, but the film is moving forward. It has a producer, director and screenwriter. I’m excited about the fact that my mom and I will be advisors. My sister Mia is an emerging singer/songwriter, so I’m hoping that I can convince the producers to use some of her inspirational songs in the film.
YABC: When you do find time in your demanding schedule for reading, what is your genre of preference?
MD: I like to read at bedtime to put myself to sleep, but sometimes when the book is too exciting, it keeps me awake instead. I prefer books about young women and human rights, whether fiction or nonfiction. Some of my favorites are HALF THE SKY by Nicholas Kristof and Shery WuDunn, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee, I AM MALALA by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb, and THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK by Anne Frank.
I’ll probably have a lot less time for reading in the future because I will be starting college courses soon.
Meet Taking Flight!
The extraordinary memoir of Michaela DePrincea young dancer who escaped wartorn Sierra Leone for the heights of American ballet.
Michaela DePrince was born in war torn Sierra Leone, where she was orphaned at a young age. She became known as girl Number 27 at the orphanage, where she was neglected and tormented as a "devil child" for a skin condition called vitilgo that makes her skin appear spotted. But it was at the orphanage that Michaela would find a picture of a beautiful ballerina en pointe that would help change the course of her life.
At the age of four, Michaela was adopted by an American family who encouraged her love of dancing and enrolled her at the Rock School for Dance Education. She went on to study at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre and is now the youngest principal dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
In this engaging, moving, and unforgettable memoir, Michaela, with the help of her adoptive mother Elaine, shares her dramatic journey from an orphan in west Africa to becoming one of ballet's most exciting rising stars.
Meet Michaela and Elaine DePrince
Michaela DePrince graduated from the American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis school in New York, and is a dancer with the Dutch National Ballet. She travels between Amsterdam and Atlanta, where she lives with her family.
By: Michaela and Elaine DePrince
Release Date: January 19, 2016
Two winners will receive a copy of this new book (USand Canada only)!
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*a Rafflecopter giveaway