I wasn’t expecting a novel in verse. And really, I didn’t know what to expect except that this book nicely fit into the Asian Lit Bingo category of “Asian MC with Disability”. And of course, dance.
“Both feet on the ground again, I pirouette and leap,
rejoicing in the speed at which
the body obeys my mind’s commands,
celebrating my strong, skilled body —
the center and source of my joy,
the one thing I can count on,
the one thing that never fails me.”
Growing up in Singapore, I knew a little (just a little) about Indian dance. In Singapore, ‘Indians’ (that is, anyone of South Asian ethnicity) make up about 7% of the population. And at my all-girls secondary school, there was a strong Indian dance group that performed at many occasions. I remember watching them walk on stage, the bells on their legs jingling. And all the many whirling and strenuous vibrant movements they made. It was such a huge contrast to the more gentle movements that the Chinese dance troupe performed.
Veda is a dancer. A Bharatanatyam dancer. It is her life, it is her passion, it is her world. She lives and breathes dance.
But her world comes crashing down when she loses her leg in a car accident. She now has to figure out how to walk again with a prosthetic leg.
“It feels like Shiva destroyed my universes of possibility,
like He’s dancing
on the ashes
of my snatched-away dreams.”
Somehow she finds the strength in herself to learn to dance again. She finds a new teacher and begins at the beginning with the youngest dancers.
Veda is such a great character. She’s strong and resilient yet also very vulnerable and innocent. I love that she has a great relationship with her grandmother, who encourages her dancing, while her relationship with her mother is much more constrained.
A Time to Dance is a sweet and beautiful story with dance at its heart and a courageous inspiring young woman at its soul.