Thursday, June 10, 2010

Historical Fiction Miss: Ten Cents A Dance

There is a strong moral in this story, important for young girls I imagine: Don't take money from men and not expect to give anything in return. Duh.

The time is 1941, the setting Chicago, and Ruby is 15. She has had to drop out of school to work in a meat packing plant to support her mother and sister. Ruby has an unpleasant attitude. The world owes her something apparently and she is too good to pack pig's feet in jars. A brief in enounter with the local bad boy has her in a dance hall doing taxi dancing. This was interesting to me because I have never heard of it before. It made me think of strip clubs minus the stripping. Apparently, women dressed in swanky gowns, men paid ten cents a dance, copped a feel here and there, tipped the gal, and she put the money in her garter and moved on to the next fellow.

The problem with Ruby is she is too greedy to stop there. Remember the world owes her something and she is gonna get what she feels is her due. She goes out after hours, borrows money from men by making promises she has no intention of keeping. She's a tease. She ends up learning the timeless saying "put out or get out" the hard way.

I couldn't stand Ruby. I get that it's the 1940s but can she really be so dumb? I also didn't like her racist attitude towards Orientals and African Americans. I found myself hoping some fellow would really take his money's worth with her and put her in her place. To top it all off she allows herself to be emotionally abused in a way by the local badboy and keeps running back for more. Her mother is no better, spending her daughter's money to buy dresses and snag herself a man. I guess the apple really doesn't fall far from the tree...

I enjoyed the 1940s dancehall setting, but Ruby... not so much. Thankfully, I got this book from the library.




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