Carrie, a business manager who always wanted to be a dancer, has two commitments today. She made a promise to her late father to move Cousin Ella, a former Paris café dancer, from her condemned Harlem apartment to a safe place. She’s also committed to catch a flight to Seattle with her husband for his new job. But Cousin Ella resists leaving the apartment where she’s had salons with Langston Hughes. She also has a mysterious gift that she wants Carrie to earn. If she does, a revelation about Carrie’s father and his cousin Langston Hughes will change her life.
"Its details exquisite and its characters compelling, Dancing with Langston is a powerful novel about the rewards and the realities of following one’s dreams." –5 stars, Foreword Clarion Review
“Dancing with Langston is one of the most beautiful, brilliant debut novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading in years. With a poet’s skill, and decades of historically important experience in publishing, Sharyn Skeeter has crafted a story that generously delivers black American history and culture, humor, a cast of vibrant, memorable characters, and a vivid portrait of one of the world’s most celebrated literary artists, Langston Hughes, who just happens to be her distant relative. But of even greater importance for this reader, her novel-—very original, very fresh, very dramatic—is a deeply moving story about the love of a daughter for a complex father she comes to fully know only after he is gone. It is about the importance of family—the ones we are born into and the ones we create and love during our journey through life. And about something we all have felt profoundly in our depths—the necessity and difficulty of following one’s dreams.” —Dr. Charles Johnson, Middle Passage
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*Thank you to NetGalley and Green Place Books for the digital ARC in exchange for an honest review. I soaked this up in a day! WOW - this was fantastic storytelling. Perhaps my deep connection to the story, in part, stemmed from having lived in the neighborhood and maintaining personal ties to the streets, buildings, people, and culture; they were once my own. But Skeeter, with her brilliant craft, encapsulated the vibrant beauty and creativity of the Harlem Renaissance. As Langston's everlasting aura fills Cousin Ella's apartment, I can promise that Hughes and all the Renaissance greats continue to inspire and breathe through today's Harlem community. It wasn't until I finished the book that I realized we don't actually leave Cousin Ella's condemned apartment, and yet the reader is somehow able to, along with Carrie, explore the magic of Harlem through music and dance, artwork, and history. By the time I finished this book, I knew these characters like they were my own family - I loved them - and I was holding onto those last moments in the apartment, too. I plan on purchasing this book and recommending it to a few friends who I know would appreciate it immensely.
wonderful book that transports readers back to the days that Josephine Baker strutted her stuff in Paris and Harlem was in its glory. Cousin Ella isn't quite as famous as Baker but she danced in Paris in that era until a tragic accident sent her packing back to to Harlem. Half a century later, her cousin Carrie promises her father that she'd help get Ella who is now in her 90's move into a retirement home. Carrie too once had aspirations to be a dancer but her father who has recently died convinced her that a business degree was more practical and emphasized that he didn't her to end up poor like Cousin Ella. To please her father Carrie graduates from Columbia and settles for a fairly joyous marriage to a successful businessman. A busy professional, Carrie chooses the day before she's moving to Seattle to help her cousin pack. With Ella's building being restored for new owners, Ella has little desire to move but no choice. Here Carrie learns how Ella had once hosted salons for their cousin Langston Hughes and other prominent figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Carrie is also surprised to learn how her father frequented these salons and spent a great deal of time with Cousin Ella and her boyfriend. Rushing to close on her condo before the Seattle move, Carrie finds she simply cannot leave to close in time. There are too many things to pack and too many picture albums and paintings to examine. Carrie also receives the surprise that her father told her Cousin Ella had for her. The surprise forces her to decide on where her true path lies. Although her dancing career had been thwarted, she finds it's time to find her true course in life. Well written, this book brought back memories of the days when my daughter was at Columbia and worked on the Harlem Restoration Project. There's so much history in the pages of this book that I found it impossible to put down. I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and I appreciate having had this opportunity.
Carrie Stevens is a successful 38-year-old woman of color living in New York City. Her life is comfortable. Maybe somewhat routine, certainly not the life she once imagined for herself, but nice. Nice and comfortable. Her marriage is... successful. She is selling her condo in New York and following her husband to his new job in Seattle in less than 48 hours. All Carrie has left to do is move her last living relative, 95-year-old Cousin Ella, from Ella's apartment in Harlem and into a nursing home. Seems simple enough. And all Sisyphus had to do was roll a boulder up a hill. What Carrie encounters is a force of nature. Her late father's cousin has a mind of her own and she simply does not want to leave the apartment that has been her home for decades. Ella was once a dancer in Paris, a contemporary of Josephine Baker, a confidant of Langston Hughes and others. Her apartment was once a gathering place for some of Harlem's most famous artists and provocative thinkers. Now, many years later, they're all long gone but Ella remains the outsized personality who once served as both hostess and ringleader. Carrie gets caught up in Cousin Ella's reminiscing and before it's all over she discovers things about her own family history, her father, and herself that she never knew. Dancing With Langston is a good piece of literary fiction. Part coming of age story, part resurrection story, all heart. ***Thanks to NetGalley, Green Place Books, and author Sharyn Skeeter for providing me with a free digital copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.