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The Sugarless Plum: A Memoir Paperback – January 18, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1987, when Karz was 21 and dancing in the corps of the prestigious New York City Ballet, she began to suffer constant thirst and dizziness, frequent urination and oozing sores under her arms. After an initial misdiagnosis and months of denying the seriousness of her condition, Karz faced the devastating reality that, as a type 1 diabetic, she would have to take insulin injections for the rest of her life, check her blood-sugar levels at least 10 times a day and was at a high risk for infection and even amputation. Karz details the ups and downs of her childhood, illness and 16-year NYCB career, from a low-blood-sugar episode that almost derailed a performance in Copenhagen to dancing with George Balanchine himself at a School of American Ballet rehearsal; being cast as the Nutcracker's Sugar Plum Fairy; and her promotion to soloist six years after her diagnosis. Karz's prose is simple, and although ballet fans may wish for more insider gossip, Karz offers a satisfying portrait of a dancer making her mark at a competitive world-class company. Diabetics and athletes in particular will gain inspiration from her perseverance, acceptance and control of a debilitating disease. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* After learning to dance in Thailand during her dad’s army tour, Karz studied at George Balanchine’s School of the American Ballet, the training ground for the New York City Ballet. At 17, she danced as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, and at 20 she danced in company cofounder Jerome Robbins’ Goldberg Variations. Loving the “order and control” of dance, Karz was shaken to the core when she was diagnosed with diabetes at age 21. Failed attempts at self-healing were followed by insulin injections and blood tests throughout her demanding routine of classes, rehearsal, and evening performances—all in secret to conceal the severity of her illness. Six years later, after she’d toured internationally despite frightening fluctuations in blood sugar levels, she remained in the corps de ballet, then was promoted to soloist. One of the pleasures in this empowering journey of talent and determination is Karz’s faultless writing; it’s never awkward or stilted even when she provides medical and technical dance facts. This winning memoir will appeal strongly to readers interested in dance, health, and artists’ memoirs. --Whitney Scott --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin; Reprint edition (January 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0373892454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373892457
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,476,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jessie Potts VINE VOICE on December 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Sugarless Plum by Zippora Karz has many layers to it, and many secrets that if you look hard enough, you can unlock. Zippora Karz (a little backround) is a famous ballerina who moved up in the New York City Ballet ranks from a student, to a member of the Corp de ballet, to finally the coveted Soloist role. What non dancers may not realize is that there is a higher role, the Prima Ballerina role who is above the Soloist. I think the fact that it took Zippora many many years (in fact she was in her late 20's) to be promoted adds to the element of realism and endurance. What I mean is that this is not a memoir of a famous Prima dancer who struggled with Diabetes, yet was the star of the company. Zippora struggled with her identity right to the very end of her career, and often was passed up on roles because of her health and balancing issues.

As a dancer I appreciated the detailed lives of the company members, I was amazed reading about the famous Balanchine and couldn't believe how lucky Zippora was to come in on the end of a choreographically spectacular era. I also (while no where near Company level) sympathized with her weight and eating issues as well as the strive for your teachers to notice you, and how it feels to watch some of your friends surpass you. As a person I felt my heart go out with her struggle through even the early stages of diagnosing the disease. I had no idea just how far the medical field has come along with in 20 years. The most important part to me though was how Zippora found herself after she retired. For many people who fall inlove with the stage and give their blood sweat and tears to it, stepping off it can be a difficult time, one when many lose themselves.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Zippora Karz is not your typical ballarina..... she is, of course, pretty and thin, determined and talented, all of the requite traits for a successful dancer. Yet, there's more to her story than what she illustrates in motion.

Karz was clearly ill during much of her early career. She was equally, if not more so , adament about her craft. This, as one may guess, was a detriment to her increasingly deteriorating health. Scores and scores of symptoms that screamed her malady failed to get the attention they desperately sought; the only ones of any concern to her were the obvious ones (sores, etc.) that impeded her dancing, or detracted from her physical beauty.

"The Sugarless Plum" is a true story about a ballarina (Karz) who ended up with a diagnosis of Type I diabetes (juvenile diabetes), but only after untold damage to her body. Does she eventually prevail over the illness? Yes. Is she able to continue her career, albeit somewhat modified? Yes. Is this a cautionary tale? Yes.

There is inspiration to be found in Karz's story; she, indisputably, has pluck and resiliance. However, "pushing through" dominates most of the book, a phenomenon we see far too often in athletes, especially young ones, with a result of permanent damage to their bodies. What is unclear is whether this kind of perserverance should be glorified.

In my humble opinion this is more of an indictment on those surrounding her (minus her doting grandmother, thank heavens for those blessed souls) than anything else. Professional dance is known for its notorious lack of oversight concerning the health of its performers.

Karz had a dream, and she's done an admirable job of fulfilling it. Still, the health issues she willfully ignored do not serve as a positive role model. This book is somewhat engaging, but only for those who can relate to the author's particular ambition. For those who have diabetes it is downright disheartening.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Zippora Karz's mother and grandmother were dancers. Growing up she received extensive training in ballet, yet, she was surprised to learn that she was talented. She and her sister attended several years of summer programs in San Francisco and New York. When Zippora was invited to attend the School of American Ballet run by the historic choreographer George Balenchine she was pleasantly surprised. At each step she struggled to be perfect as she worked harder than seems even humanly possible. Her description of growing up and leaving home for the school in New York is very interesting.

Her frenetic struggles with diabetes are almost unbelievable. I find it difficult to comprehend the drive of someone who works that many hours a day at hard, physical, extremely painful and yet seemingly very enjoyable labor. She was working so hard to grow in her career that she allowed her body to become quite diseased before she realized it. She wants us to see how difficult it was and to me it seems almost unbearable. Yet she struggled on against all odds. Her overwhelming desire to please people is quite touching. She admits that she was really struggling to be perfect in every way and it nearly killed her.

My opinion is that the medical profession failed Karz in every possible way. Even her father, a physician himself, sent her to a doctor who really did nothing to help her. Karz and her parents were very remiss in not getting her some better treatment. Instead she relied on some extreme diets and exercise as well as some mind control to try to control Type I diabetes. Poor Zippora was so naïve about doctors, men and the world in general that she allowed herself to be used and abused almost constantly.
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