The Flamenco Academy

As a novelist, Sarah Bird is not exactly prolific—it’s been five years since the  Texas Monthly writer-at-large gave us the fine The Yokota Officers Club —but at long last she has delivered the stunning and ambitious THE FLAMENCO ACADEMY , a tale of obsession and, yes, gypsies. Against the backdrop of Albuquerque’s vibrant flamenco scene (who knew?), groupie queen Didi Steinberg and best pal Cyndi Rae Hrncir immerse themselves in the Andalusian dance after Cyndi Rae goes near-stalker-crazy over guitar phenomenon Tomás Montenegro. They learn machine-gun rhythms and graceful arm movements at the feet of grande dame Doña Carlota but, more importantly, absorb gypsy culture, a paella of persecution and passion with origins in the rude caves outside Granada. Bird’s travelogue to the little-known universe of flamenco puro and its cantaores (singers), tocaores (guitarists), and flamencas (dancers) is enthralling, sure to banish painful images of faux–flamenco guitarists flailing at an E-minor chord. Knopf, $25

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