Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher
Oooh, I like. Because this book is really about Ruby more than anyone or anything else, but the men in her life are important to her journey, I really like the juxtaposition of her face with their backs.
With her mother ill, it’s up to fifteen-year-old Ruby Jacinski to support her family. But in the 1940s, the only opportunities open to a Polish-American girl from Chicago’s poor Yards is a job in one of the meat packing plants. Through a chance meeting with a local tough, Ruby lands a job as a taxi dancer and soon becomes an expert in the art of “fishing”: working her patrons for meals, cash, clothes, even jewelry. Drawn ever deeper into the world of dance halls, jazz, and the mob, Ruby gradually realizes that the only one who can save her is herself. A mesmerizing look into a little known world and era.
No, it’s a standalone.
A well-researched historical novel, but not dry or didactic.
Taxi Dancers. This is a whole concept I had never heard of–and it was real. The ladies (some of whom were more “respectable” than others) hired out their dances. Kudos to Fletcher for writing about this fascinating world.
WWII Home Front! Ruby meets many soldiers as a taxi dancer, and some of them become important to her. The war is, of course, a constant backdrop to the action as well.
Complicated Relationships! Family love, friendship, romance, customer-client: all of these relationships and more are included in some form in this book–and none of them is simple and straightforward, but they’re not soapy, either–just realistic.
Fletcher has written a strong, well-researched historical novel about an aspect of WWII home front life that is not often explored. I don’t think a lot of adult novels are written about taxi dancers, and definitely this is the only YA I can think of about them. I also really liked that the narrative did not seem to judge Ruby for her choices, even when they might obviously be bad ones. Lots of shades of gray here (not the erotic kind, though). I also loved the author’s note at the back, telling why she decided to write about this particular piece of history.
Borrowed from work, because I am poor and live in a small apartment.