About the book:
It started as the perfect story. Zippora Karz was a member of the famed New York City Ballet by the age of eighteen. By twenty she was starring as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, dancing roles created by Jerome Robbins, and traveling the world.
It was the stuff dreams are made of until, at age twenty-one, Karz became exhausted, dizzy and excessively thirsty. Heavy pancake makeup covered the sores under her arms that would not heal, but she neglected to go to the doctor. When she finally did, she was diagnosed with diabetes, and learned that if she continued to ignore her symptoms, she risked heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputation of her toes, feet and legs. She struggled to get the correct diagnosis and treatment, first thinking she had Type-2 diabetes, when in fact she had Type 1, juvenile diabetes. Once placed on an insulin regimen to regulate her blood sugar, she would inject herself with unsafe doses before going on stage in misguided attempts to obtain peak performance. The potentially fatal result of Karz's self-experimentation became all too real when she nearly lost consciousness. Her weight dropped and she became dangerously ill.
Balancing ballet and her blood sugar would be a long and difficult struggle for Karz, but eventually she learned to value her body and work with it, rather than rage at its limitations. In The Sugarless Plum, Karz shares her journey from denial, shame and miseducation about her illness to how she led an active, balanced and satisfying life as an insulin-dependent diabetic and soloist with one of the world's most famous ballet companies. Through her fascinating story, those struggling with diabetes and other serious illnesses can find encouragement and inspiration as well as practical advice on achieving physical and emotional wellness.
After sixteen years with the New York City Ballet, Karz retired and took her passion and skills into a whole new arena as a diabetes educator and advocate, where today she inspires people to not just manage their illness, but to thrive and fulfill their passions. The Sugarless Plum takes readers deep into the heart and soul of a young dancer, and is a remarkable testament to determination and perseverance.
This was a memoir I thoroughly enjoyed. I love ballet and while it's not a "tell all" book, the insiders look into the world of the New York City Ballet was fascinating. Zippora's account of the perseverance it took to become a prima ballerina is inspiring: the hard work and hours of practice; the pressure to not only excel, but succeed to the expectations of greats like George Balanchine.
Zippora's story is honest and unembellished. As she reaches her professional goals, her health declines and she finds herself not only striving to dance while sick, but unable to find out why she was sick. I found the story of her struggle with diabetes interesting. Diabetes isn't something I've dealt with personally, but is a disease that is very prevalent in the world today. It's also easy to make judgment calls and say that she should have asked for second opinions or even demanded more from her doctors. However, I think she did the best with what she had and could do at the time, and it's fortunate that she was able to find answers and ways of dealing with her diabetes before it was too late.
While not a book specifically about diabetes, Zippora nevertheless shares her knowledge and insights about diabetes and treating it.
Thanks to Caitlin Price of FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Zippora Karz here. You can purchase your own copy here.