It is the 1940's and 15-year-old Ruby Jacinski has had to step in and support her family. Her father is dead and her mother is now too sick to work. The family has had to move to a poorer neighborhood and the only work Ruby can get is at the meat-packing plant, earning $12.25 per week. Her only escape is when she meets her friends to go dancing.
One night, Ruby's entire life changes. Tough-guy Paulie Suelze tells her how she can earn up to $50 a week. That much money could change Ruby's life. She could pay off the families grocery bill, get her mother's wedding ring out of the pawn shop, and maybe even get her mother and sister out of the Back of the Yards and into a decent house.
There is a hitch to the idea. The job isn't exactly a respectable one. She would be working as a taxi dancer, a girl who dances with men for money. For the cost of a dime, lonely men purchase the illusion of having a pretty girl who is interested in them, even if it is only for the length of a song. Since dancing is what Ruby does best, she figures there will be no problem earning that much money.
Ruby quits her job at the plant and devises a story so that her mother will let her stay out late every night, when the Dance Halls do their business. Ruby soon finds herself leading two lives and hiding each from the other.
Taxi dancing proves to be more complicated than Ruby thought. There is a hierarchy of girls to navigate through and earning good money means learning the act of subtle manipulation with the clients. Ruby soon learns that the world of taxi dancing is a complicated one and, as her new friend Peggy tells her, "every taxi dancer has a story."
Will Ruby be able to separate herself from this new world or will she become another one of its casualties? Will she ever be able to return to her old life? Is it possible to return to an innocent existence after seeing another side of life?
TEN CENTS A DANCE was inspired by a member of author Christine Fletcher's own family. The story of Sofia, as explained in the book, is about a family member who was lost for several years. She had been shamed and banished from the family only to return years later. Sofia had been a taxi dancer and went to great lengths to hide her true life from her family. It was only after her death that the truth came to light. Fletcher began to research taxi dancers, which led to the creation of Ruby.
This is an amazing story that vividly describes what it must have been like to be young and offered such a great opportunity and terrible burden at the same time. Ruby is a very realistic character with enough spunk to inspire anyone. The dialogue is rich with the language of the time and the spirit of pre-war America has been accurately represented.
TEN CENTS A DANCE will leave a lasting impression.
Reviewed by: JodiG.