Summary and book reviews of Tango Lessons by Meghan Flaherty

Tango Lessons

A Memoir

by Meghan Flaherty

Tango Lessons by Meghan Flaherty X
Tango Lessons by Meghan Flaherty
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  • Published:
    Jun 2018, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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About this Book

Book Summary

From a dazzling new literary voice, a debut memoir about a young woman learning to dance tango, becoming comfortable in her own skin and in the arms of others.

Tango was an unlikely choice for Meghan Flaherty. A young woman living with the scars of past trauma, she was terrified of being touched and shied away from real passion. But by her late twenties, she knew something had to change. She dug up an old dream and tried on her dancing shoes.

In tango, there's a leader and a follower, and, traditionally, the woman follows. As Meghan moved from beginner classes to the late-night dance halls of New York's vibrant tango underground, she discovered that more than any footwork, the hardest and most essential lesson of the dance was to follow with strength and agency; to find her balance, regardless of the lead. And as she broke her own rule - never mix romance and tango - she started to apply those lessons in every corner of her life.

Written in wry, lyrical prose, and beautifully enriched by the vivid history and culture of the dance, Tango Lessons is a transformative story of conquering your fears, living your dreams, and enjoying the dizzying freedom found in the closest embrace.

Chapter 1

The studio was in an ordinary office building, on the second floor. I had only just enrolled myself, by index card and golf pencil, and now I stood in one of several rooms walled off by dark pink curtains, strapping on a pair of grandmotherly pumps. The maestro entered, heels slapping as he thrust himself across the floor. He wore a suit over a black T-shirt, like an eighties stand-up comic, and a ridge of curls hugged his slightly horsey neck. Immediately, he started giving orders in a clipped and thinly eastern European accent. The dance yes is to walk. Okay, begin.

We didn't walk. We practiced standing - with all our weight on one foot then the other, watching our ankles wobble in the mirror. My classmates were a pair of forty-something Asian women and some shrinking, balding men in stripes. We didn't speak. The ladies were asked to stretch up on the forefoot — balanced on the ball, heels elevated - a task that only made us wobble more. Then the maestro ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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I must say I was hesitant to accept that a memoir by such a young woman would be compelling. I'm happy to report that my reservations were unfounded. First, I started to fall in love with tango and by chapter four I'd dialed up a steady stream of the music on YouTube to accompany my reading. Then I became intrigued with Meghan and all of her and tango's anomalies, eager to find out how her journey would end. Finally, the smattering of Argentine history and culture she includes in Tango Lessons is fascinating.   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Thoughtful and entertaining ... This moving story of dancing into womanhood is unforgettable; readers will warm to Flaherty's unassuming voice and marvelously rendered love of tango.

Booklist
With an acolyte's enthusiastic, detailed devotion, Flaherty traces how this demanding dance gradually led her to demand more for herself.

Library Journal
An engaging memoir that will have readers looking for the closest tango studio.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A vibrantly intelligent reading pleasure.

Author Blurb Bronwen Dickey, author of Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon
Meghan Flaherty is simply an astonishing writer. Brimming with sensuous detail and sophisticated wit, every page of Tango Lessons seduces and rebuffs, beguiles and delights. This is easily one of the finest books ever written about dance, and every bit as graceful as the art itself.

Author Blurb Margo Jefferson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Negroland
As Virginia Woolf wrote, 'What a lark! What a plunge!' Meghan Flaherty has written a wonderful book...She is entertaining, thoughtful, and trustworthy because her self-examination - doubts, insecurities, grief - is never self-indulgent. I caught my breath at the end. Bliss indeed, those last sentences. I can't wait to read what she does next.

Author Blurb Phillip Lopate, author of To Show and to Tell and editor of The Art of the Personal Essay
A dazzlingly honest, unblinking memoir, it is also deliciously written, authentically romantic and enormous fun to read.

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Beyond the Book

Whitewashing Argentina

In her memoir Tango Lessons, author Meghan Flaherty says that tango is "more than its prurient reputation. It contains genres, movements, cultures, continents. It is both African and European, yet uniquely Argentine - and carries within it the early story of that nation. A nation built upon a heritage it would rather see obscured."

Between the 16th and 19th centuries millions of Africans were brought en masse to South America's shores to serve as slaves in Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and elsewhere. In Argentina, as in other countries, they were brought to work both in agriculture and as domestic servants. And although Argentine's National Constitution outlawed slavery in 1853, the practice continued until 1860 when a constitutional ...

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