The Life Fantastic : A Novel in Three Acts
Overview - As seen in the Publishers Weekly African-American Titles for Young Readers feature Will Teresa Find Fame But Lose Her Soul? It's 1913 and vaudeville is America's most popular form of entertainment. Thousands of theaters across the country host vaudeville troupes. Read more...
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More About The Life Fantastic by Liza Ketchum
As seen in the Publishers Weekly African-American Titles for Young Readers feature
Will Teresa Find Fame But Lose Her Soul?
It's 1913 and vaudeville is America's most popular form of entertainment. Thousands of theaters across the country host vaudeville troupes. In Brattleboro, Vermont, fifteen-year-old Teresa LeClair--who has a "voice like a nightingale"--remembers the thrill of singing onstage as a child. But her parents have given up life on the road, and her father has decided that Teresa, blessed with perfect pitch, should drop out of school and work in the tuning rooms of the organ factory.
Determined to escape the life her father wants for her, Teresa wins an amateur singing contest in Brattleboro's opera house and steals away on the night train to New York. She hopes to become a star on Broadway's "Great White Way," but has no idea of the challenges that lie ahead. There she runs into Pietro Jones and his father, talented African American dancers. Teresa and Pietro become competitors as well as unlikely friends.
At a time when young black men could be lynched for simply looking at a white girl, Pietro understands, better than Teresa, the danger of their relationship. Teresa's quest to find her voice onstage and in her life, far from the support of her family, takes place against a complex racial backdrop of American history.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
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In a historical novel that opens in 1913 Vermont, Ketchum (Out of Left Field) weaves a gripping story of racial discrimination in the performing arts. Money is always tight for Teresa LeClairs white family; although they have left their vaudeville life behind, 15-year-old Teresa dreams of a career as a singer. When Teresas father wants her to risk her voice and health to work in the tuning rooms of an organ manufacturer, she runs away, and her younger brother, Pascal, follows. After Teresa meets a tap dancer named Pietro, who is black, the two begin traveling and performing together, but as they travel to New York City and then Colorado, Teresas opportunities on the stage far outnumber those of the equally talented Pietro, which outrages her. Ketchum paints a vivid portrait of the difficult life of a performer and the indignities and prejudice endured by artists of color like Pietro, including being forced to perform in blackface. Lovers of theater and history will find a great deal to sink their teeth into. Ages 14up. Agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown. (Jan.)