Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher
(Bloomsbury, Hardcover, 2008)
Ruby's family used to be pretty well off until her father died. Then her mother worked long hours in the factory to make ends meet. When Ruby's mother can no longer work in the factory, Ruby must quit school and start earning money for the family. Factory work is not the future that Ruby envisioned for herself, so when bad boy Paulie Suelze suggests that Ruby work as a taxi dancer, she jumps at the chance. Pretty soon, she's working at the Starlight Dance Academy, teaching boys the Lindy Hop for ten cents a dance and lying to her mom about her job.
There are certain books that just sweep you away in the language and feeling of a time period and Ten Cents a Dance is one of those books. Set on the brink of World War II in a Chicago that was teeming with jazz music, this novel is like opening a door into a forgotten time period. One in which gangsters ruled the streets, swing music spilled out of every corner club, and respectable women didn't dance in those clubs. Ruby is tenacious, proud, and attracted to bad boys. Basically, she's like a lot of us today. I had never heard of taxi dancers before reading this book, so it was interesting to hear about a bit of American history that isn't taught in classrooms. Ruby's story isn't necessarily a happy story; it is powerful, though, and I highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction and gutsy heroines.