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For A Dancer: The Memoir by Emma J Stephens
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For A Dancer: The Memoir (edition 2011)

by Emma J Stephens

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4226273,462 (3.02)5
Member:cedargrove
Title:For A Dancer: The Memoir
Authors:Emma J Stephens
Info:Saint Columba Press (2011), Hardcover, 226 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:memoir

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For A Dancer: The Memoir by Emma J Stephens

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  1. 01
    Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren (elizabeth.a.coates)
    elizabeth.a.coates: Both are true stories, both writers experience many barriers, same frank tone.
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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Well it took awhile but I finally read this book,can't say I enjoyed it overly much as the author jumps all over the place in her story and often mentions people without letting you know why they are important or even who they are. I did a lot of going back to see if i missed something when a new person was thrown in the mix. I mean there are some sections of the book that I still have know idea why they're part of the story they don't seem to have any relevance to what she's talking about. From what I read the author had a lot of awsome chances and experences but blames her early/family life for all her poor choices and screw ups. Seroiusly nobody's family is perfect, deal with it and either move on or at least stop whining that it causes you to screw up your life. ( )
  Kitiria | Nov 13, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was an Early Reviewers book that I've read twice in order to write this review, to try to clarify my feelings. I didn't necessarily find it easy or gripping to read, but it did make me think, and I was overall glad I'd read it. Emma and her sister Sadie are born into a family who struggle with alcoholism. Feeling abandoned by their mother, and forced to be more adult than she should be because of her father's immaturity, Emma gets caught up in and inadvertently perpetuates a cycle of hurt that has far-reaching consequences. This memoir is presented in vignette format, and this both worked and didn't work for me. In some ways it heightened my perception that had things gone differently at any stage, Emma's life could have also gone so differently, making this quite a thought provoking and poignant story. I felt both admiration for Emma's achievements, and sadness that she wasn't able to get more of the love and support and nurturing she deserved. ( )
  seekingflight | Apr 14, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Putting the ‘functional’ back into a dysfunctional life

If ever there was a testament to seizing every experience presented, good, bad and in between, I think Emma Stephens’ For a Dancer: The Memoir is it. While many reviewers have complained that this is nothing but a jumbled succession of overdramatized events in the life of a dysfunctional family, and one individual within it, I saw a far different picture. Certainly, the author made some questionable choices through her life, but these are presented in the book in a painfully honest and bitterly open way, and always examined and presented under the light of ‘hindsight’ as one would expect with a set of memoirs. At times the book perhaps suffers from an underlying self-cynicism, and at others left me slapping my head in a kind of how could she have been so stupid kind of way, but on the whole I found the book engaging and easy to read – and very evocative of the locations in which events take place.

I must commend Ms Stephens on her excellent depiction of the cultural dislocation one suffers when moving to a country not one’s own, where the language spoken is unfamiliar and so even being able to do the simplest daily tasks that we all too often take for granted becomes like climbing the North Face of an unattainable mountain. Having recently spent some time working in Cairo (I'm from the UK), this particularly struck a chord with me. It is chapters such as this – when the content speaks to the personal experiences of the reader – that help to improve the book’s accessibility and engagement with the intended audience.

Painfully honest, all too human, all too recognizable, the events written of in For a Dancer: The Memoir present the journey of a strong individual struggling to, and succeeding in, making lemonade where life has dealt her a whole crate load of lemons. ( )
  cedargrove | Mar 28, 2012 |
It's quite possible that Emma Stephens has written one of the most courageous and honest books that I have ever read. Generally, I steer clear of memoirs as they tend to brim with the ego of celebrity. Having read the lengthy "Confessions" of JJ Rouseau, for example, he is clearly an egoist. But "For a Dancer" was written by a humble person simply and earnestly seeking a better life for herself and her son in a harsh universe. The author strikes me as a kind of pilgrim spirit like Aeneas wandering through an Underworld of dysfunctional people most for whom she cares but with radically limited means to save them or herself. Only a strong soul undertakes such a journey and then shares it with such candour. If this book were a novel, then the author could hide behind the artifice of the genre and claim so many of the most painful plot points of the story line were simply fictional. However, Stephens is fearless in her exposition and because of it she takes the higher ground of integrity and gains full credibility as a narrator despite the incredibly desperate bends of the road of her life's journey. There were times when her flawless literary style struck me as rather journalistic almost as if she lived outside herself and were seeing herself through the eyes of others. At other times the introspection is profound with a clarity devoid of self-pity during woefully hard times which she survived by her wits and resourcefulness. The demons whom she encounters are relentless and pursue her tirelessly. They are the demons that most of us encounter at some points in our lives primarily centering on broken relationships with family, friends and lovers. Clearly, Stephens is a woman with creative gifts and her narrative style read like a catharsis, almost as a pennance, for the choices that she has made which have brought her such heartbreak. She seeks merely a worthwhile and meaningful existence like all of us. Her journey takes her from extreme rural poverty in a hopelessly dysfunctional family in Virginia to Beverly Hills, the Rockies, Monaco and Oxford University in search of a meaningful vocation and a worthy partner. She is searching for a prince to save her and it turns out that her prince up to this point is her son, Gabriel, aptly named for she finds strength and even redemption in him. It is moving to witness such sacrifice at so high a cost and then to find as an unfolding and recurring epiphany that so much of the real meaning of life emerges from the love of a parent for a child. I was reminded in some of the Colorado passages of Lord Byron's prisoner of Chillon who dwells as a captive in a castle on Lake Geneva and befriends his chains in his communion with the unreachable freedom and beauty of the Swiss Alps just outside his confining cell. As Stephens approaches a midpoint in her life she anticipates that the high volatility of her prior life may moderate so that she may find tranquility, meaningful work and true love. Somewhere, perhaps, someone shall emerge who sees the pilgrim soul in her. Success is faithless master: in the spoils of success are sown every new defeat and from the ashes of defeat grow the seeds of every new victory. I respect the honesty and the courage in the worthy writing of this book and I hope that from the catharsis of its writing Stephens finds what really matters most to her. This book would make a great movie with her in the lead. Given the video playing in the heads of each of us about our life's journey, it is a reality that only seems a dream. "Who can tell the dancer from the dance?" Isn't that a penultimate question? ( )
  WordsworthGreen | Feb 24, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It took me many months to crack open this book and read it . . . and it had nothing to do with the content or author, it's just that every time I looked at the cover art, I was put off. It's a shallow reason to wait so long to read it, but there you go. Once I started reading this book however, I had no trouble finishing it rather quickly. For the most part, I enjoyed reading about the life (so far) of Emma Stephens. I did feel the book needed to be edited down in a couple of parts, especially where the amount of detail given sometimes overshadowed the tale. As some of the other reviewers have mentioned, it was also a bit frustrating following her story as she ran from one man to next, in hopes of having them provide material comforts and a higher social status. That being said, the "humanness" of her story is refreshing, and I appreciated reading about another persons tale of trying to overcome the pains and scars that occurred while in childhood. As someone that is currently trying to work through past hurts, Emma's tale is comforting and relatable as she allows us a glimpse of her struggles to work through her own issues, a task that is never quick, pretty, easy, logical or painless. It is messy and frustrating and annoying as the same mistakes are made, the wants and desires craved for in childhood are ever-present in adulthood, and meeting those needs is terribly challenging, and usually even harder to sustain once a way to meet those needs has been found. Reading 'For A Dancer' takes you through this difficult and unfinished journey, through the eyes and heart of Emma J Stephens. ( )
  peasantstories | Jan 18, 2012 |
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Brought up in an environment riddled with substance abuse and neglect, Emma has big dreams and little chance of ever reaching them. By the age of fourteen she is on her own, determined to escape the mentality that has crippled her family, but to succeed would mean leaving behind her sister and betraying the only life she’s ever known. From the Virginia countryside to the streets of Paris, through teenage motherhood and higher education, share Emma’s tears and triumphs as she searches for acceptance in an exclusive world and finds love in the most unlikely of places.
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