The Sugarless Plum: A Ballerina’s Triumph Over Diabetes

Zippora Karz

It started as the perfect story. Zippora Karz was a member of the famed New York City Ballet by the age of eighteen. By twenty she was starring as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, dancing roles created by Jerome Robbins, and traveling the world. It was the stuff dreams are made of until, at age twenty-one, Karz was diagnosed with diabetes.

Balancing ballet and her blood sugar would be a long and difficult struggle for Karz. In The Sugarless Plum, Karz shares her journey from denial, shame and miseducation about her illness to how she led an active, balanced and satisfying life as an insulin-dependent diabetic and soloist with one of the world’s most famous ballet companies. The Sugarless Plum takes readers deep into the heart and soul of a young dancer, and is a remarkable testament to determination and perseverance.

As a graceful young ballerina and in the prime of her career, Zippora Karz was stunned when a doctor informed her she had diabetes. It was 1987 and Zippora was 21 years old, so her first doctors assumed she had type 2 and advised her on blood sugar monitoring and diet. No tests were done to check and see what type of diabetes she had. Unsure what to do and feeling ill much of the time, Zippora went to live with her grandmother who fed her a unique diet including fruits, nuts and vegetables, no processed sugars. This diet eventually led to lower blood sugars so Zippora felt better and returned to New York to dance. After struggling with high blood sugars, she found a new doctor who surmised that Zippora had type 1 and needed to take insulin. It took many months for Zippora to learn how to balance insulin, food and dancing and, like most people with type 1, had many ups and downs. Finally, six years after her diagnosis, Zippora was made a soloist, the pinnacle of her career. She continued to dance until 1999. Ms. Karz has been a ballet teacher and diabetes advocate since her retirement.

Warning: There is one reference to a sexual encounter that parents may need to explain (or not want to explain) to younger readers. Thus this book is recommended only for older teens and adults, or for those who have a special interest in dance.

Published by Harlequin. ISBN 0373892039. US$22.95. Hardcover.2009

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