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The Wind at My Back: Resilience, Grace, and Other Gifts from My Mentor, Raven Wilkinson

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From celebrated ballerina and New York Times bestselling author Misty Copeland, a heartfelt memoir about her friendship with trailblazer Raven Wilkinson which captures the importance of mentorship, shared history, and honoring the past to ensure a stronger future.

Misty Copeland made history as the first African-American principal ballerina at the American Ballet Theatre. Her talent, passion, and perseverance enabled her to make strides no one had accomplished before. But as she will tell you, achievement never happens in a void. Behind her, supporting her rise was her mentor Raven Wilkinson. Raven had been virtually alone in her quest to breach the all-white ballet world when she fought to be taken seriously as a Black ballerina in the 1950s and 60s. A trailblazer in the world of ballet decades before Misty’s time, Raven faced overt and casual racism, hostile crowds, and death threats for having the audacity to dance ballet.

The Wind at My Back tells the story of two unapologetically Black ballerinas, their friendship, and how they changed each other—and the dance world—forever. Misty Copeland shares her own struggles with racism and exclusion in her pursuit of this dream career and honors the women like Raven who paved the way for her but whose contributions have gone unheralded. She celebrates the connection she made with her mentor, the only teacher who could truly understand the obstacles she faced, beyond the technical or artistic demands.

A beautiful and wise memoir of intergenerational friendship and the impressive journeys of two remarkable women, The Wind at My Back captures the importance of mentorship, of shared history, and of respecting the past to ensure a stronger future.

ISBN-13: 9781538753859

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Publication Date: 11-15-2022

Pages: 240

Product Dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Misty Copeland is a principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre and the author of the New York Times bestsellers Life in Motion, Ballerina Body, Black Ballerinas, and the children’s picture book Bunheads, as well as the award-winning children’s book, Firebird. She made her Broadway debut in 2015’s On the Town, putting a show that had reportedly been suffering financially for months into the Broadway box office top ten for the two weeks that she guest starred as Ivy Smith. She’s been featured in the New York Times and on CBS Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes, and she was named one of Glamour’s Women of the Year and Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. Misty is the recipient of the Young, Gifted & Black Honor at the Black Girls Rock! Awards and the Spingarn Medal, the NAACP’s highest honor.

Table of Contents

Prologue: On the Shoulders of Giants 1

Chapter 1 It All Began Tonight 11

Chapter 2 A Distant Mirror 17

Chapter 3 Two Women at the Crossroads 27

Chapter 4 Never Give Up 47

Chapter 5 Taking Flight 75

Chapter 6 Dreams Deferred 99

Chapter 7 Black Swans Rock 121

Chapter 8 Blood, Sweat, and Swan Queens 131

Chapter 9 Live by the Swan, Die by the Swan 145

Chapter 10 Dreams Realized 161

Chapter 11 The Bells Toll 175

Chapter 12 Taking Ravens Breath Away 181

Chapter 13 Transition 189

Epilogue: Blackface, Racial Reckoning, and Raven's Wish 203

Acknowledgments 215

Notes 217

Index 221