Reviewed By Astrid Iustulin for Readers’ Favorite
There are real-life events that can be told like novels. They have so much joy, sorrow, and emotion that it is enough to pick up a pen and let the memories flow to tell a delightful story. This is the impression you have when you read Cherie Magnus’s Arabesque: Dancing on the Edge in Los Angeles. In this intense memoir, the author recalls growing up in Los Angeles in the 1960s. Dance is her whole life, and she wants to become a dancer and a choreographer. She reveals her hopes for her career and talks about friends, family, and love. However, she has to make choices that take their toll on her health.
After finishing Arabesque, I realized that this book has two major strong points. The first is the honesty with which Magnus pens her story. She hides nothing and shares her experiences, hopes, and dreams in a way that makes you instinctively like her. Her life has not been a bed of roses, and yet many passages of her book are joyous, especially when she remembers her early years and travels. The second aspect to consider is equally significant. Magnus does not only write her own story but remembers important events, such as civil rights fights, that took place in Los Angeles and America when she was growing up. These references offer an interesting cross-section of America in those years and add a touch of nostalgia to Arabesque. On the whole, this book is a fascinating read, and I recommend it to those who like good writing and stories of a recent past.
“Brave and intelligent” —
Blossom, Species of Feeling, The Love Story of Paul Collins
Cherie started writing this story at the time it began–in February of 1992, when she was so depressed after her husband’s death she wanted to swallow all of his left-over meds and follow him into the beyond. So what began in a way as a journal or diary became the chronicle of her road to survival in four countries. And once she made that decision to live no matter what tragedy came her way, she plugged on, through one tremendous loss after another, by dancing. No, not yet had the tango found her, but whatever dance there was at the time came to her rescue. She had always been a dancer, and now she knew dance could save her from despair.
As her adventures unfolded, the manuscript grew and grew. She had to make cuts in events, characters, reflections and realizations. That was the hardest part of bringing this story to fruition. So much is left out.
Cherie taught traditional tango in Buenos Aires for many years with her Argentine partner, and their international students all asked her, “How did you end up teaching tango in Argentina?”
This book is her answer.
Lots of women have come to Buenos Aires for tango, stayed a while, gone back home and then wrote about their experiences. There are a couple of tango histories available in English, as well as a couple of Buenos Aires milonga guide books. There are self-help books using tango as a way to better interpersonal relationships. There are some novels about tango in Buenos Aires.
This award-winning memoir is not like any of them; it is not a “tango book,” but a story of survival that cuts across death, cancer, Alzheimer’s, loss of home and homeland and cherished heirlooms and possessions, loss of shared histories, of hope for one’s children, of hope for the future, of love. But it’s also about finding love and unexpected joy. And about listening to the music and dancing.
The Church Of Tango:
My Years in Buenos Aires
Part 3 of Trilogy
"A story so sensual,
so unconventional, and so shocking…
it could only be true."
After a series of life-changing and terrible losses, Cherie moves to steamy Buenos Aires, where the romantic attention of the local men reignites her youth and sexuality. But women like her, who stay to create a life and dance the best tango in the world, rapidly find themselves bombarded with flattery and compliments by the caballeros and milongueros - Men who see women as little more than sexual objects…making life for a free-spirited American woman more sensuous and difficult.
Soon she meets Ramon, the handsome and skilled tanguero who quickly dances his way to her heart. But will the stifling atmosphere of sexual oppression poison the life she has worked so hard to create, far from her home of Los Angeles?
Based on the author’s true experiences… Intoxicating Tango pulls back the red velvet curtain of the milonga (the place where social tango is danced), and reveals the secrets of the viveza criolla- the“artful lying” and machismo that drives life in Buenos Aires.
The sequel to The Church of Tango, and Arabesque: Dancing on the Edge in Los Angeles, tells of Cherie’s big move to Buenos Aires after years of searching in France and Mexico for a permanent home. The Argentine culture’s machismo makes the tango the best in the world–and life for a free American woman more sensuous as well as difficult.