Flowing free verse tells the story of a teenage dancer in Chennai, India, who loses a leg and re-learns how to dance.
As a child, Veda climbs a stepladder in the temple to reach up and trace the dancers’ feet carved into granite with her fingertips. Shiva’s the god of dance and creator of universes, and a priest teaches Veda to “feel Shiva’s feet moving” inside her chest, as her heartbeat. Years later, as a teen, she wins a Bharatanatyam dance competition and relishes the applause. Then a van accident leads to the amputation of her right leg below the knee. Venkatraman weaves together several themes so elegantly that they become one: Veda’s bodily exertion, learning to dance with her prosthetic leg; her process of changing her dance technique to be emotional and spiritual as well as physical; and all the rest of Veda’s life, including young love, grief, insecurity and a dawning awareness of class issues. The fluid first-person verse uses figurative speech sparingly, so when it appears—“A bucket of gold melting from the sky”—it packs a punch. Veda’s no disabled saint; awkwardness and jealousy receive spot-on portrayals as she works to incorporate Hinduism and Buddhism, life experience and emotion into her dancing. When she does, her achievement is about being centered, not receiving accolades.
A beautiful integration of art, religion, compassion and connection. (author’s note) (Verse fiction. 13-17)