Books

new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

A ballerina’s life and another reason to buy book for holidays

Ballerina Laura Young rehearsing with Rudolf Nureyev in 1982.
Bill Young
Ballerina Laura Young rehearsing with Rudolf Nureyev in 1982.

Memoir of a ballerina

The Boston Ballet celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013, and this Friday marks the opening of the annual holiday-season run of “The Nutcracker.’’ Laura Young was part of the company since its inception, and has, with writer and dancer Janine Parker, put together a memoir about her career as a ballerina, the evolution of the Boston Ballet from scrappy upstart to world-renowned organization, and the attendant triumphs, challenges, and doubts faced by an artist in pursuit of beauty and truth.

Young says that as a dancer she was driven by “the struggle to achieve what my mind saw as the ultimate goal, both technically and emotionally.” That same sense of mission informs her teaching. When she sees a student “understand more fully an aspect they have been struggling to achieve,” she says she is filled with a sense of pride in the dancer’s accomplishment.

“Boston Ballerina: A Dance, a Company, an Era’' (UPNE), out earlier this month, is at once a self-portrait, a character study of Boston, and an intimate, inside look at the art of ballet. “The aim of a professional dancer is to express oneself as sincerely and authentically as possible so that the viewer can enter into this make-believe world up on stage,” she writes. In this book, with candor and grace, Young allows us to enter the real-life world behind the one on stage.

Shopping for a good cause

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Black Friday marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season, and many independent bookstores will be celebrating the day after, Small Business Saturday, with discounts and other enticements. Harvard Book Store takes it a step further this season. A portion of the sale of every book you buy for the four Sundays following Thanksgiving will be donated to local nonprofits. This year’s campaign will help support Community Cooks, which works to help groups make home-cooked meals for at-risk populations; On the Rise, which supports women transitioning out of homelessness; and 826 Boston, the writing organization that seeks to develop skills of students and help teachers get their kids’ creative juices flowing. It means you can feel even better about giving the gift of books this year.

Coming out

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“Improvement’’ by Joan Silber (Counterpoint)

“Mrs. Caliban’’ by Rachel Ingalls (New Directions)

“The Construction of the Tower of Babel’’ by Juan Benet, translated from the Spanish by Adrian West (Wakefield)

Pick of week

Ted Zarek of the Brown University Bookstore recommends “Waiting for the Punch: Words to Live by from the WTF Podcast’’ by Marc Maron (Flatiron): “Listening to Marc’s podcast is one thing, but being able to read these accounts — whether it be Natasha Lyonne discussing her drug addiction and attempts to get over it, or the revealing and emotional moment that Todd Hanson recounts his suicide attempt — really shows how deep and therapeutic sitting with Marc in his garage can be.”

Nina MacLaughlin can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.