On Top of Glass by Karina Manta

It’s wild when figure skaters good enough for internationals are just as good at other skills. I loved the fresh writing in this memoir by the first U.S. female skater to come out while still competing.

If you remember any freedance from U.S. Nationals from the past couple of years, chances are you remember Manta and Johnson’s Sweet Dreams FD, which got a standing ovation. Well-deserved: it’s not everyone who can do justice to choreography by Christopher Dean! And it’s not a coincidence that they did their best-ever competitive ice dancing after both partners came out publicly. The evidence is clear that skaters do their best when they’re being true to themselves, whoever those selves might be at the moment.

The details in this book are so finely observed. About a camping party, the girls fell asleep “lined up like crayons.” The teen skaters prepped for competition by “painting lipstick over our braces” and covering acne with rouge. Look at this beautiful passage: “I often felt small in a beautiful and important way. Like a blade of grass. Like a honeybee.”

I loved the double meaning when Manta says ice dancers, less mainstream than singles skaters, are “edgier.” They sure are. And I happy-gasped when I read how the rhythm of a childhood tic finally served a purpose when Manta discovered ice dancing. That convergence in the story gave me chills.

Queer figure skating has been an interest of mine for decades, so I was always going to read this book, but it’s a good read independent of its topic.

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