Gilded Serpent presents...
"Also Known as Sadzia!
The Belly Dancer"
written by Merrill Joan Gerber
review by Karen Roberts
ran across this YA book (young adult) by Merrill
Joan Gerber (who is a Belly dancer and a fiction
teacher) when I searched Belly dance at my local library. Published
in 1987, "Also Known As Sadiza
The Belly Dancer" is the story of Sandy, a 16-year-old
girl who can never live up to her mother's expectations of thinness
and beauty. When Mom drags Sandy to the recreation center for
"Thinnercize" classes, Sandy stumbles in to a Belly dance class
and falls in love with the dance form. True to YA formula, she
also falls for the dumbek (drum) player, Samir. Sandy (Sadzia)
begins to assert herself with her mother, gaining self-confidence
and self-acceptance as she learns to dance. Additionally, in
typical YA fashion, we follow Sandy as she grows into her personal
truth, finds herself, and, of course, gets her guy.
book offers some depth beyond "chick-lit" (the current term for
light-weight). The story threads include: an inter-generational
friendship with an eighty-year-old woman who is teaching Sandy
Yiddish, Sandy's distant relationship with her father, another
friendship with a hippie mom whose aerobicizing daughter bonds
equally with Sandy's mother (Ah, irony!), and the complex mother-daughter
dynamic that marks adolescence.
are even brief insights regarding the implications of a Jewish
girl learning an Arabic dance form, dancing, aging, and dreams
As with many
YA books, this one touches on mature themes such as loss, rebellion,
and even adultery in a brief mention, and in a teaching context.
However, it also falls back on the typical formula of rising conflict,
rapid resolution, and a happy conclusion. The dance information
portrayed in the book is, largely, sound, (although Sandy's instant
success as a "natural belly dancer" is a bit unbelievable!) and
Sandy's growing self-acceptance and brightening future are compelling.
There were a
few scenes when I felt sure that Samir would turn into a cad.
Perhaps I have too much angst in my YA days, obviously now long
past, but thankfully, those evolved into moments of gentle romance.
The mother is stereotypical: pushy, shrewish, and critical. Sandy's
father is portrayed as a silent savior. The stereotyped portrayals
are unfortunate, and the ending ties up too neatly and too quickly
as is the case with many short YA novels, Despite these criticisms,
I still found the exploration of Belly dance as a tool for a young
woman's growth unusual and enjoyable.
"Also Known As Sadiza The Belly Dancer" isn't heavy literary fiction, but
it was a fun little read at 182 pages, and girls who are interested
in ethnic dance might like it.
I found the cover rather incongruous: it shows a drawing of
a girl who appears closer to 8 rather than 16, appearing that
the story was written for a much younger audience. If this
book were reprinted with a more contemporary cover, it may have
become quite popular today.
story contains no profanity or sex, has a brief mention of infidelity,
and is probably the only YA book that one could research under
the keywords zills or beledi! The book appears
to be available only as used copies on www.amazon.com, so it may
already be out of print, but I hope that I have shined a spotlight
on this somewhat obscure YA belly dance book. Good luck finding
it at your local library!
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