Hope in a Ballet Shoe by Michaela and Elaine DePrince.


The Blurb

Orphaned by war, saved by ballet.

Growing up in war-torn Sierra Leone, Michaela DePrince witnesses atrocities that no child ever should. Her father is killed by rebels and her mother dies of famine. Sent to an orphanage, Michaela is mistreated and she sees the brutal murder of her favourite teacher.

But there is hope: the Harmattan wind blows a magazine through the orphanage gates. Michaela picks it up and sees a beautiful image of a young woman dancing. One day, she thinks, I want to be this happy.

And then Michaela and her best friend are adopted by an American couple and Michaela can take the dance lessons she’s dreamed of since finding her picture.

Life in the States isn’t without difficulties. Unfortunately, tragedy can find its way to Michaela in America, too, and her past can feel like it’s haunting her. The world of ballet is a racist one, and Michaela has to fight for a place amongst the ballet elite, hearing the words “America’s not ready for a black girl ballerina”.

And yet…

Today, Michaela is an international ballet star, dancing for The Dutch National Ballet at the age of 19.

A heart-breaking, inspiring autobiography by a teenager who shows us that, beyond everything, there is always hope for a better future.

The Positives

There is a lot that I liked about this book. After reading it, I feel really interested in ballet generally. I went and watched a documentary that Michaela featured in called First Position, and I am seriously considering booking tickets to watch a ballet locally. It has made me interested in something that I have not been particularly interested in before.

– I liked the positive approach that Michaela and her family take to life. I love that she has such close relationships with her family and that they have supported her to reach her dream, making sacrifices along the way to provide that support.

– I also really enjoyed reading about how Michaela’s early years made her so determined to achieve her goals.

– I liked that, although her early years are important, that the focus is more on how Michaela managed to move beyond the trauma and how she found the courage to move forward.

The not so good..

Okay so there’s nothing major. My only niggles are:

– That, reading as an e-book there were no pictures. I know that technology doesn’t really support this, and I looked her up afterwards, but I tend to ‘connect’ to people writing autobiographies more when I can see them.

– There was a slight inconsistency that has been bugging me a bit. In the book, Michaela describes something happening to her teacher. In the documentary which I watched afterwards (and really enjoyed), she described it differently. It’s just something that I picked up on and I have wondered about.

– I think that as the book was co-authored, I would have liked more from Elaine DePrince (the Mum), particularly about why she chose to adopt, her thoughts on her Daughter’s ambition and just the telling of some things from her perspective.


Overall, although this is not a book I would usually choose (I was drawn to the cover), I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to those who enjoy auto-biographies.

I requested this book via netgalley – it is published on 30.12.14. I was provided this book free of charge in exchange for my honest review.


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