by Renée K. Nicholson
West Virginia University Press, 2021
Paper: 978-1-952271-01-4 | eISBN: 978-1-952271-02-1
Library of Congress Classification GV1785.N487A3 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 792.8028092

Memoir about ballet and illness from a creative writing teacher whose career as a ballerina was stopped by rheumatoid arthritis.

Renée Nicholson’s professional training in ballet had both moments of magnificence and moments of torment, from fittings of elaborate platter tutus to strange language barriers and unrealistic expectations of the body. In Fierce and Delicate, she looks back on the often confused and driven self she had been shaped into—always away from home, with friends who were also rivals, influenced by teachers in ways sometimes productive and at other times bordering on sadistic—and finds beauty in the small roles she performed. When, inevitably, Nicholson moved on from dancing, severed from her first love by illness, she discovered that she retained the lyricism and narrative of ballet itself as she negotiated life with rheumatoid arthritis.

An intentionally fractured memoir-in-essays, Fierce and Delicate navigates the traditional geographies of South Florida, northern Michigan, New York City, Milwaukee, West Virginia, and also geographies of the body—long, supple limbs; knee replacements; remembered bodies and actual. It is a book about the world of professional dance and also about living with chronic disease, about being shattered yet realizing the power to assemble oneself again, in a new way.

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