The power of music, the power of obsession

  • KNOPF
  • ISTOCK
 

Flamenco, says a character in Sarah Bird's dramatic and well-written novel, The Flamenco Academy, is an "obsessive-compulsive disorder set to a great beat." The novel weaves the history of flamenco with the search for identity and the power of obsession. 

Albuquerque high-school seniors Rae and Didi make an unlikely duo. Rae, the narrator, is a math whiz, and flamboyant Didi is obsessed with becoming someone. They bond because both their fathers have cancer, and Rae is happy to live in Didi's shadow. 

But after Rae spends a life-altering night with Tomas, a tormented flamenco guitarist visiting Albuquerque, she becomes obsessed with transforming herself into his perfect woman. She and Didi enroll in flamenco classes at the University of New Mexico and are taught by the famous Dona Carlota Anaya de Montenegro, Tomas' great-aunt. Whenever class goes well, she rewards the students with tales of her Gypsy life in 1930s Spain. 

Although Rae and Didi are not gitano por cuatro costaos - "Gypsy on all four sides" - they excel at flamenco. Dona Carlota calls Rae La Metronoma for her precise footwork and Didi La Tempesta for her passionate dancing. When Tomas returns three years later to find a dancer for his guitar tour, Rae and Didi compete against each other for the position. Tomas chooses Rae, and they become lovers. However, when Didi and Tomas begin an affair, Rae is forced to analyze her life. 

Dame la verdad: Give me the truth. This is the essence of flamenco, and it turns out, the most difficult aspect of both art and life. Bird's characters are so enmeshed in personas and obsessions that they cannot face reality. It is only when Rae accepts the truth, not the fantasies she has created, that she can free herself from Didi and Tomas and build a future that simultaneously accepts and releases her from the past. 

The Flamenco Academy

Sarah Bird

416 pages, softcover:

$13.95.

Knopf, 2007.

High Country News Classifieds
  • TECHNICAL ADVISOR TO THE GOOD NEIGHBOR AGREEMENT
    Northern Plains Resource Council seeks an independent contractor to implement the Good Neighbor Agreement (GNA) between local communities and the Sibanye-Stillwater Mining Company in Montana....
  • POEM+ NEWSLETTER
    Start each month with a poem in your inbox by signing up for Taylor S. Winchell's monthly Poem+ Newsletter. No frills. No news. No politics....
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), Utah's largest conservation organization, has an immediate opening in its Salt Lake City office for a staff attorney. SUWA's...
  • DEVELOPMENT & COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST
    Idaho Walk Bike Alliance seeks a lover of bicycling, walking, and all modes of active transportation who willingly puts the car in the garage and...
  • COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
    Friends of Inyo - the Communications Director is a full-time permanent position that reports to the Executive Director and utilizes communication strategies and production skills...
  • INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS EDITOR
    High Country News seeks an editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk. This individual will lead a team of passionate journalists...
  • HIKING TO THE EDGE:
    Confronting Cancer in Rocky Mountain National Park. Poetry and photos on survival thinking. E-book and paperback available at Amazon.com.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has grown into America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more than...
  • IPLC RIGHTS AND EQUITY PROGRAM ASSOCIATE
    A LITTLE ABOUT US Founded in 1951, the Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FUTURE WEST
    Future West seeks an executive director to lead this dynamic organization into the future. Based in Bozeman, MT this well-respected nonprofit provides communities in the...
  • PART-TIME EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Mitchell Museum of the American Indian Location: Evanston, IL Salary Range: $45,000 @ 24 hours per week. send resume: [email protected] www.mitchellmuseum.org
  • COMMUNICATIONS LEAD
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR
    Since 1989, The Nature Conservancy in Alaska has been doing work you can believe in protecting the lands and waters that all life depends on....
  • OUTDOOR PROGRAM - ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
    St. Lawrence University seeks to fill the position of Assistant Director in the Outdoor Program. To view the complete position description, including minimum qualifications required,...
  • PUBLIC LANDS DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement Conserve Southwest Utah is seeking a dedicated advocate for conservation and public lands Public Lands Director a "make a difference" position Conserve Southwest...
  • FOR SALE
    Yellowstone Llamas Successful Yellowstone NP concession Flexible packages
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT & MARKETING
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners is seeking a full-time Director of Development & Marketing. This is a senior position responsible for the development of all marketing...
  • LEGAL DIRECTOR
    The Legal Director will work closely with the Executive Director in cultivating a renewed vision at NMELC that integrates diversity, equity, and justice. Black, Indigenous,...
  • WE'RE LOOKING FOR LEADERS!
    As we celebrate 50 years of great Western journalism, High Country News is looking for a few new board members to help set a course...
  • WIND RIVER WRITERS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS RETREAT BY THE NATIONAL BIGHORN SHEEP CENTER
    Enhance your writing or photography skills with world-class instructors in the beautiful Wind River Mountains. All skill levels welcome. Continuing education credits available.