Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher

"Bad boys and secrets are both hard to keep..."

4 stars
R- 2.5

Fifteen-year-old Ruby has to work. Her mother's illness makes anything else impossible. But the packinghouse work is miserable.

So when she learns about a chance to get paid for dancing? Well, who wouldn't jump on that, right? But it may not be quite what she thinks.

I had never heard of taxi-dancers. But that's what this is all about. A room full of pretty women in fancy gowns and any guy can dance with any of them for ten cents. (Hence the title. I had wondered.)

Soon Ruby is caught in a vast web of her own lies, late hours, nasty women, and men who may be after more than a dance.

I enjoyed this book. Ruby is an idiot, no doubt about it, but I liked the story and I thought it was well done.

The hypocrisy and racism were interesting. It's okay to snub the Pinoys/Flips (Filipinos) and the Chinamen (especially after Pearl Harbor... 'cause we all know the Chinese were all over that) but it's also okay to go out with them if they have a lot of money. And to go to the "black and tans". And being snubbed yourself for being a Pole? Apparently that's just expected. But, hey, at least you're white. (Racism ticks me off.)

The money was fascinating. The idea of $18 a week being enough to turn everything around, pay off all your debts, have a better life. I'm not positive I could feed my family on $18 a day. And that's just for food.

It's also interesting to see how much Ruby gets caught up in it all. She's making more than she tells her mother, plus getting expensive gifts and such, but she never seems to get ahead. She needs a new gown, or a new outfit... etc etc. The same things you see a lot of today. The same things people've always done. There's always more to buy.

I want to say the ending seemed contrived, but I'm not sure it does. It feels like it could be, but it also fits her character. Like she finally wakes up or something.

The author's notes at the end were also interesting. Apparently Chirstine Fletcher had a relative no one talked about because she had gone off and been a taxi-dancer, among other things. Definitely worth a glance at that part of the book too.

All-in-all it's an interesting look at the early 40's and the beginnings of America's involvement in WWII.

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