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Ten Cents a Dance

Ten Cents a Dance

4.3 33
by Christine Fletcher

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With her mother ill, it's up to fifteen-year-old Ruby Jacinski to support her family. But in the 1940s, the only opportunities open to a Polish-American girl from Chicago's poor Yards is a job in one of the meat-packing plants. Through a chance meeting with a local tough, Ruby lands a job as a taxi dancer-a girl paid ten cents to dance with any man-and soon becomes


With her mother ill, it's up to fifteen-year-old Ruby Jacinski to support her family. But in the 1940s, the only opportunities open to a Polish-American girl from Chicago's poor Yards is a job in one of the meat-packing plants. Through a chance meeting with a local tough, Ruby lands a job as a taxi dancer-a girl paid ten cents to dance with any man-and soon becomes an expert in the art of "fishing" as she works her patrons for meals, clothes, even jewelry.
Drawn ever deeper into the world of dance halls, jazz, and the mob, Ruby gradually realizes that the only one who can save her is herself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Inspired by the experiences of her great-aunt, Fletcher (Tallulah Falls) imagines two years in the life of a scrappy girl from a working-class community in Chicago during WWII. Just 15 and saddled with the responsibility of supporting her ailing mother and younger sister, Ruby Jacinski quits school to work in a meatpacking factory but is soon dazzled by the prospect of earning big money as a taxi dancer (professional dance partner)—an idea she picks up from her neighborhood crush, mobster wannabe Paulie. Fletcher sustains the narrative with the ongoing tension between Ruby's buttoned-up family persona and her desire for a real romance, the glamour of dressing up and dancing to jazz, and baiting "fish" (customers) for dinner dates and money. Ruby's ability to skate away from an entanglement with an older, very crass client, a disillusioning relationship with Paulie and a brush with the mob can strain credibility; however, the depiction of Chicago nightlife in the '40s and Ruby's deft observations ("the look on his face, like the music itself had put on a dress and come up to him and said hello") add depth and complexity. Ages 14-up. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
VOYA - Jenny Ingram
In 1941 Chicago, fifteen-year-old Ruby Jacinski trades school for work in the meat-packing plants to support her widowed, sick mother and her younger sister. Barely getting by, Ruby borrows money and clothes from a friend and attends a dance one evening where she meets Paulie, a shady young man who encourages her to work as a taxi dancer, charging ten cents per dance in a dance hall. Ruby creates a complex network of lies to hide her dubious new job and increased income from her family. World War II and her mother's remarriage bring Ruby's dance career to a sudden end, and unable to reenter her previous life as a teenage schoolgirl, Ruby leaves Chicago to support the war effort by building airplanes in California. Fletcher's depiction of taxi dancers is fair, acknowledging that some dancers were more guileless in their work than others, and she writes about sex sensibly and rationally. The descriptions of nightlife are lively and engaging, and they bring to light race, class, and gender issues in 1940s Chicago, which are fodder for discussion. Leisure readers will enjoy this novel, but it will also be useful in the classroom as a historical snapshot. Reviewer: Jenny Ingram
VOYA - Rebecca Moreland
This novel smoothly dances readers back in time to an era of jazz, boys, and a nation on the brink of war. Even decades later, many female readers will be able to relate to some of the facets of Ruby's teenage life, a time during which she is thrown into an unforgiving world and must find out her true identity. The story is rifled throughout with superb emotions and detailed descriptions. The captivating setting and engaging, complex characters make this book a must-read for more than solely fanatics of historical fiction. Reviewer: Rebecca Moreland, Teen Reviewer
Children's Literature - Suzanna E. Henshon
Have you ever dreamed of a more glamorous life than the one you have? The time is 1941, the place is Chicago, and Ruby Jacinski is a schoolgirl with "castle in the sky" dreams. When her mother becomes too ill to work, Ruby drops out of school to support the family. But she soon gets tired of working in a slaughterhouse and yearns for something more exciting. That is when Ruby runs into Paulie Suelze, the classic bad boy. Ruby discovers she can make tons of money by wearing silk and satin dresses at the Starlight Dance Academy. With a little charm and a good dance step, Ruby begins raking in plenty of cash—and her factory job becomes a thing of the past. Lonely men pay ten cents a dance to take Ruby around the dance floor at this popular night club. Ruby realizes she can help her mother and little sister move out of the Chicago tenements and into better housing. But is this what Ruby really wants? If she could be anywhere, would she be a dance hall girl in Chicago? After her mother remarries, Ruby is told she must return to school. It is back to the uniform again. At the age of sixteen, already having experienced a sophisticated world, Ruby cannot return to the girl she once was. But where does she belong now? Will she ever find her place in the world? Christine Fletcher's second novel is a dynamic spin through the streets of Chicago, the world of jazz, and the heart of an adolescent girl coming of age during the 1940s, a turbulent time in history. Reviewer: Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up- In 1941, Ruby Jacinski, 15, quits school and works at a meatpacking plant to support her ailing mother and her sister. Her life changes dramatically when Paulie, a handsome young man with a terrible reputation, takes an interest in her and encourages her to pursue a job at the Starlight Dance Academy. There, she can earn a lot of money, get her family out of debt, and live a more exciting life by dancing with lonely men. For someone who loves to dance, the job is a dream come true, but Ruby soon learns that it comes with a price. She lies to her mother and tries to avoid the constant hustle and manipulation from both the customers and her coworkers. As she continues to turn to Paulie for protection and advice, she gets caught up in the seedier side of Chicago's poor Back of the Yards district. This is a unique look at U.S. social history. Ruby is tough, strong, and determined, but maintains the innocent and idealistic dreams of adolescence, thus endearing her to readers. The grittier side of Chicago nightlife and the harsh pressures on wartime youth to mature quickly are well delineated. This intriguing story is well paced and well researched.-Kimberly Monaghan, formerly at Vernon Area Public Library, IL

Kirkus Reviews
Fletcher offers a hard-boiled work of historical fiction that captures America's social struggles at the beginning of World War II. Sixteen-year-old Ruby secretly works as a taxi dancer, jitterbugging with men for money, to get her family out of Chicago's slums. Ruby's neighborhood, The Yards, looms with its gritty tenements, sooty windows and ever-present stink. Like all the characters in this novel, Ruby feels cornered by circumstance and desperate to escape. As a taxi dancer, her innocence quickly fades. Right and wrong blur, her customers' kisses grow more frequent and she falls for a small-time gangster. Ruby enters a very adult world-one full of haggard broads, dirty old men, booze, jazz clubs and low-cut gowns. Many teens might not be able to follow. Ruby's nerve and sass make her a distinctive character, however, and she brings the language, rhythms and social changes of the 1940s alive. (Historical fiction. YA)

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Christine Fletcher grew up in California. After receiving her veterinary degree from the University of California, she lived for three years in the Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee. She writes, teaches, and practices veterinary medicine in Portland, OR. www.christinefletcherbooks.com

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Ten Cents a Dance 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in two days! Its absolutly amazing!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely great book. Entertaining but also you learn alot. The best of both worlds.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved background and history of book-overall a great book with a wonderful plot, and well narrated characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books ive read thus far!
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
Christine Fletcher captures the life of the poor in Chicago of the 1940s with such realism that you feel for the characters, especially Ruby Jacinski. Wanting more for herself that what the slums have to offer, she takes a job as a taxi dancer. We learn that life is not always greener on the other side. But Roby is strong and learns to overcome her obstacles. I enjoyed this book, but when I learned that the inspiration for this story was based on the author's long lost family member Sophia who was a taxi dancer made it all the more special. Although this book was written for the young adult reader, it is also enjoyable for us older adults.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
Chicago, 1941: When her mother becomes too sick to work, Ruby Jacinski knows it's her responsibility to look after the family and make sure money is coming in. Ruby doesn't mind dropping out of school. But working in the factory just about kills her. Leave it to Ruby and her fiery temper to lose a sweet spot slicing bacon and end up working in Pig's Feet. When a local legend and all-around tough guy suggests that Ruby could use her talents as a dance teacher to earn some real dough, Ruby jumps at the offer. But teaching dancing is the last thing on the clients' minds when Ruby begins working as a taxi dancer. With no other choices, Ruby immerses herself into the world of taxi dancing and learns the fine art of drawing extra gifts in the form of meals, clothes and even cash from her clients. Soon, Ruby is making more money than she could have imagined. Soon Ruby realizes that the unsavory aspects of her work are starting to stick to her as much as the stink of pickled pig's feet used to. With no one else to help, Ruby knows that it's her choice to make another change for herself in Ten Cents a Dance (2009) by Christine Fletcher. Ten Cents a Dance was partly inspired by one of the authors relatives as detailed in the author's note at the end of the novel. Fletcher offers a well-researched novel that brings the world of the Chicago Yards neighborhood to life. Ruby is a tough as nails heroine who isn't afraid to make hard choices to get what's coming to her. If Ruby is coarse or gritty during the story it is because she has to be to survive. While Ruby's decisions are often fueled by impulsive judgments of painfully naive notions, she is a very authentic heroine and one that readers will understand. Although Ruby makes mistakes again and again (and again) during the narrative she always owns up to the them. She always acknowledges what she did and works to make it right. Ten Cents a Dance is a vivid story of the darker side of pre-war Chicago. Sure to appeal to readers looking for a noirish read they can sink their teeth into. Possible Pairings: Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, The Luxe by Anna Godbersen, Vixen by Jillian Larkin, The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff, Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross, Bowery Girl by Kim Taylor
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This I loved this book and have previously written a review for it, however I need to say that this book cover change is horrific and gives you the WRONG impression about what Ruby's story is all about. It's just ridiculous.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stop wasting your time looking at reviews and just read! This book is amazing!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was indeed a pretty good book. I'm saying this and giving it 4 stars becuase it was not really my style. What drew me in was the fact that it was about a taxi dancer and being that dance is one of my passions I was really curious about the taxi dancer profession. So indeed it was good. It just wasn't what I was expecting. I was looking forward to a bigger dance scene or rather just something more on the profession. It's more of a love story but it's not at all mushy. In fact it is hard and real. Overall it was a good read just not one of my favorites.
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Charlie-in-Iowa More than 1 year ago
I am an avid (rabid) reader so I like free books. This was the first thing I bought on my Nook. It may seem pricy to your at $7.19 if your a thrifty fourteen year-old girl like me. The book had the main person of interest, Ruby, show change and emotion. Hope for getting to a better home, working over the greed that comes with money, and putting back together a family bond. Add in an interesting boyfriend and a true taxi dancer story you are in for a gret read. 276 pages.
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so_death_bye More than 1 year ago
this book is great i wish i had it. i never thiough a school libraty book would be this good. it is great and no book is like it. it's so good that i read it cover-to-cover. and happy about it. it's kind of a true life hidden storie to the Christine Fletcher. she is really good and i never wanted to put it down. when thigs were going right in the book, she kept going and made it solid. meaning truthful by solid to real life problems.