What You Become In Flight

A Memoir

With a promising career in classical ballet ahead of her, Ellen O’Connell Whittet was devastated when a misstep in rehearsal caused a career-ending injury. Ballet was the love of her life. Forced to reconsider her future, she also began to reconsider what she had taken for granted in the past.

In this raw and redemptive debut memoir, Ellen O’Connell Whittet explores the silent suffering of the ballerina—and finds it emblematic of the violence that women quietly shoulder every day. For Whittet, letting go of one meant confronting the other. Only then was it possible to truly take flight.

Ellen O’Connell Whittet is an essayist and lecturer. Winner of the Virginia Faulkner Award, her work has appeared in Vulture, Paris Review, Buzzfeed, Salon, Teen Vogue, and Catapult. This is her first book.

”Revelatory, honest, and wondrous. This is a story of constant becoming. Ellen O’Connell Whittet shows us how to confront heartbreaking realities while remaining open. She teaches us the importance of paying homage to our past selves while growing. What You Become In Flight is about the power we harness when we let our losses inform us. I come away in celebration of life’s nonlinear path and the ways we struggle and learn to occupy our bodies.” —Chanel Miller, author of Know My Name

 ”O’Connel Whittet’s memoir explores what happens when we lose a dream we feel like we were destined for. Much more than a memoir about ballet, it is a memoir about being a woman with a body, about being a person with a hungry heart, someone searching for a place to belong. Whittet writes with astounding vulnerability and grace.” —Annie Hartnett, author of Rabbit Cake

”An elegant and compelling künstlerroman that begins in the body and ends on the page.” —Melissa Febos, author of  Whip Smart

“Enthralling, smart, inspiring … Whittet guides us through relationships, passions, illnesses, and the biggest questions about what gives us the grace and strength required for everyday living. This is a beautiful book.” —Tessa Fontaine, author of The Electric Woman

”Illuminating and lyrical. Fierce and delicate. Raw and romantic. A true work of art. This is a book not just for dancers, and not only for women. Rather, it’s a gorgeous lesson to consume, leaving you full of the complex feeling of what it is to be lifted high, dropped hard, and then build yourself back up.”   —Mira Ptacin, author of The In-Betweens