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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

A Review of

Snake Hips

by Anne Thomas Soffee

 

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Summary

Snake Hips takes a light-hearted look at the belly dancing sub-culture through the eyes of a student. It tells the true story of a young woman who turned to belly dance classes to distract her from a broken heart and quickly became hooked.
Cover

 

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Fact Sheet

Title

Snake Hips: Belly Dancing and How I Found True Love

Author

Anne Thomas Soffee

ISBN

1556524587

Publisher

Chicago Review Press

Category

Non-Fiction: Biography
Humor

Rating

StarStarStarStar

Number of Pages

262

Published In

2004

 

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Description

Using a playful, humorous writing style, Snake Hips tells the true story of how a woman who was dumped by the man in her life turned to belly dancing to help distract her from her broken heart.

Soffee opens the book by describing how she came to be involved with the man who dumped her, and what led up to the midlife crisis that resulted in their split.

Following the break-up, Soffee explores a catalog of adult education classes in search of a new hobby to take her mind off her woes and discovers belly dancing. The plot of the book stays close to two themes: 1) Soffee's ongoing search for true love, and 2) her adventures as she discovers and becomes part of the belly dancing sub-culture.

On the belly dancing side, Soffee takes classes from a couple of different teachers, joins a troupe, pulls herself through annoying performance situations, attends workshops, gets to know her classmates, and has a wonderful time throughout the process. On the love life side, her dating woes are just as funny as her belly dancing exploits.

This book could be categorized either as memoirs or as autobiography, because it does tell of someone's actual life. But for me, the category of "humor" seems much more apt. The words "memoirs" and "autobiography" evoke images in my brain of boring recitations of some famous person's life. Snake Hips made me laugh much too often to even think of calling it boring, and it doesn't try to tell Soffee's entire life story, just an entertaining chapter of it. Reading this book made me feel as though I were sipping a cup of tea with Soffee while she gave me a spirited update on her latest misadventure.

Soffee's adventures in belly dancing are centered in Richmond, Virginia. As she describes her many experiences with teachers, workshops, and troupes, she names names, and it isn't always flattering. I assume this has amused some people who know the local scene, and has probably offended others.

 

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Is It Right for You?

 

You Will Probably Enjoy This Book If...

  • You want to read a book that will make you laugh.
  • You think it would be fun to follow along with a belly dancing student's journey of discovery as she takes classes, builds her skills, performs, and embraces the overall belly dance scene.
  • You would enjoy seeing someone poke fun at situations that are usually stressful in real life, such as interpersonal drama in troupes, gigs gone wrong, etc.
  • You have been raised in an ethnic family that still retains strong traditions from the homeland, and you could relate to the ethnic identity questions of someone with such a background.

 

This Book Probably Isn't Right for You If...

  • Some of the people portrayed in a less-than-flattering light are friends of yours.
  • You're looking for something academic in nature rather than playful.

 

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

 

What I Liked:

  • I had many good laughs while reading this book.
  • Soffee tells the outside world what the U.S. belly dancing sub-culture is like, with both humor and accuracy. For example, she describes being invited to join a belly dancing troupe as being something like sorority rush.
  • As a long-time belly dancer, I find that this book makes me think, "Too true, too true!" on many occasions. The cliquish classmates, the workshop & show experience, it's all there, told from a comedienne's point of view.
  • This book makes me step back and think, "So that's how newcomers to our belly dance community see us!"
  • It's refreshing to see the mainstream media portraying belly dancing in a realistic, but still entertaining way. After reading far too many "belly dancer as exotic creature" and "belly dancer as fallen angel" books, it's pleasant to see one that presents this dance as it really is for the vast majority of belly dancers in the U.S. today: "ordinary woman who enjoys it as a hobby".

 

What I Didn't Like:

  • In real life, I don't have much patience with female friends who consistently keep making the same dating mistakes, and I find that in reading this book I don't have much patience with Soffee when she does the same.

 

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Conclusion

This book is fun to read. Soffee's playful writing style is fun to read, and her witty description of the U.S. belly dance subculture is highly entertaining. If your dating history has been filled with an endless parade of mistakes, you may be able to relate to that aspect of the book as well.

 

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Disclosures

I've never met the author, and I purchased the copy of the book used for the review. I am personally acquainted with some of the dancers she talks about.

 

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To Buy It

 

Contact Information

Web Site: www.annesoffee.com


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