A ballet milestone was reached when Copeland was named the first African-American principal ballerina at American Ballet Theater.
Copeland begins her memoir with her difficult childhood of many stepfathers and little money. Recognized by local dance teachers as someone with great potential, she was encouraged to take lessons, apply for summer studies, and pursue what ultimately became her realized dream: a career as an elite dancer. Copeland is open about her mixed-race family’s difficulties and how “Dancing was my escape.” She is frank about discussing her enormous talent along with her conflicted feelings about her mother’s role versus those of her teachers who took her in and provided for her, leading to a court battle for emancipation. Famous black performers sought her out and were a source of strength and comfort; she even performed with Prince. Always present, of course, is the fact that the world of ballet is “full of ivory-skinned dancers.” Skin color, hair, and makeup needs set African-American ballet dancers apart, resulting in many instances of prejudice both overt and subtle. In this young readers’ edition of her 2014 memoir of the same name and with Colbert’s assistance, Copeland writes in a conversational tone. She devotes much space to her innate abilities, her ABT career, and her overwhelming desire to succeed and be an inspiration.
As Copeland fiercely reminds herself, “This is for the little brown girls”—and any reader in need of inspiration. (Biography. 11-16)