Misty Copeland was 16 years old when she saw an image that changed the course of her life: a Black ballerina on the cover of a magazine.
The photograph inspired the young girl to become the first Black female principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre — and now she's writing a book to encourage other young aspiring dancers, Black Ballerinas.
On Tuesday, Copeland shared the cover of her illustrated middle-grade book exclusively with PEOPLE. Black Ballerinas is targeted for ages 10 and up and will be published by S&S/Aladdin Books on Nov. 2.
"Part of my mission is to bring awareness to the contributions of Black ballerinas," the 38-year-old dancer told PEOPLE in an exclusive statement. "To give a sense of the rich histories of those who may not be documented in ballet history books, yet their careers — and legacies — are no less valuable and inspiring."
She continued: "I'm going to share my personal stories, connections to, and experiences with these groundbreaking women. Here are my intimate snapshots of those journeys. I am infinitely grateful for their legacies. This is my bow to them."
In Black Ballerinas, which is illustrated by Salena Barnes, Copeland honors "the trailblazing women who made her own success possible by pushing back against repression and racism with their talent and tenacity," according to the press release. It includes an introduction from Copeland, who reflects on how female dancers from the past have impacted the field of ballet and her own career. The book is an ode to women of color who transformed American ballet from the early 20th century to today.
This isn't the first time Copeland has turned to writing to encourage young girls. She published her memoir, Life in Motion, and her first kids' book, Firebird, in 2014. And in 2020, the ballerina released another picture book about ballet, Bunheads. In both her writing and career as a dancer, Copeland has always pushed for inclusivity.
"That's all just a part of my DNA, in my professional life and in my personal life," Copeland told PEOPLE in September 2020 about fighting for diversity. "Not that I wanted to keep shoving it in people's faces with everything I do, but it's naturally, mechanically a part of me."
In her upcoming book, Copeland honors women like Raven Wilkinson, Lauren Anderson, and Janet Collins, all of whom broke barriers — and made history — in the ballet industry. Not only does Copeland want to inspire young girls by sharing these great stories, she also believes that people of all ages are more apt to listen.
In September, Copeland explained that people are beginning "to hear dancers of color in a different way," since the Black Lives Matter protests this past summer.
"People want to hear their experiences rather than before, where it was like, to succeed and to thrive in the ballet world [dancers of color] tried to go under the radar for as long as possible," Copeland said at the time. "Don't make any noise and just try and get in and be representation in a silent way."
"I've been so fortunate that I've had incredible platforms to be able to share my voice," she continued. "So I will continue the mission and the fight for as long as I'm alive, while also giving others support to do the same."
Black Ballerinas goes on sale on Nov. 2.
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