UCCS alumnus and queer professional figure skater writes memoir on experiences

Devon Martinez

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“On Top of Glass: My Stories as a Queer Girl in Figure Skating” is a young adult memoir by Karina Manta, a 24-year-old professional skater who was a part of the first openly queer team at the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championship.  

     Manta is also a UCCS alumnus. She graduated in 2019 with an English major and a pre-law minor. 

     Her book, which will be published later this year, follows her time as an adolescent girl to her experience as a bisexual competitive figure skater.  

     Manta explained what led her to write this book. 

     “I’ve always been really compelled by coming-of-age narratives, and I like the idea of writing specifically for an audience of teenagers,” Manta said. “Although, I hope people of all ages pick up the book.”  

     According to Manta, being an adolescent girl is a difficult and rich experience that deserves literary attention.  

     “I also love reading memoirs, but there aren’t many that are written with a more youthful audience in mind,” Manta said. “Mostly, I tried to create a book that I would have wanted to pass around and talk about with my friends when I was still in high school or college.” 

Karina Manta. Photo courtesy of Instagram.

     Manta was the first female figure skater on the international circuit to come out as bisexual while competing. She felt as if she was entering risky territory simply by existing. This experience helped her come up with the memoir title.  

     “The title evokes the image of an ice rink — the way skaters look like they are balancing on a fragile, glassy surface — but it also plays on the way that skating made me feel like I had to live carefully,” Manta said.  

     Manta went to a birthday party at an ice rink when she was a kid, and she fell in love with it. Being a shy child, she felt motivated to be involved in activities that allowed her to express herself without talking. 

     “I also just really liked the sparkly costumes,” she said. 

     Professional skating is Manta’s dream job and has helped her fall in love with skating again, unlike competitive skating which placed her into a living state of nonstop comparisons. She struggled with the subjectivity that is involved with the sport; she said it did not make sense to her that some modes of movement were considered better than other forms.  

     “I think professional skating is a more liberated craft,” Manta said. “There’s more ingenuity involved. In competitive skating, the goal was to create art that was ‘better’ than the art of other skaters. In professional skating, the goal is just to create art that moves people.” 

     A chapter of her book, titled “Tongue Tied,” was published previously in the riverrun Literary and Arts Journal. She is grateful that this story had a home in the journal before finding a home in her book. Manta also published an essay in The New York Times.  

     According to Manta, a lot of her book was shaped by her time at UCCS. Some stories in the book take place in the lecture halls and dorms. She also used to go to every creative writing open mic. 

     “Those were my first experiences with sharing my writing,” Manta said. “I feel like my time at UCCS made me believe that I could be a writer, and I’m so excited at the idea of current students picking up my book and potentially being inspired to write their own.”  

     Manta hopes the book can provide some people with the language to understand themselves better. And for the people who are not queer teenage girls, she hopes they can walk away with empathy — an understanding of that reality.  

     Manta is currently working on a reality TV show in England called “Dancing on Ice.” In the show, professional figure skaters teach celebrities how to skate.  

     “On Top of Glass” is currently available wherever books are sold and will be published on Oct. 19.  

Photo courtesy of PenguinRandomHouse.com