October 28, 2002 12:00 PM

By Anne Thomas Soffee

Dumped by the tattoo-artist boyfriend she followed to North Carolina, Soffee, an “undercover Arab” (she’s half Lebanese), slinks home to Richmond, Va., to distract herself with a belly-dancing class. Her memoir is a tale of love at first shimmy: She adores the sexy moves, the florid costumes and the “subculture where younger and thinner do not automatically equal better.”

At first Soffee fears that “nice girls don’t undulate,” but she bonds with her dancing troupe while performing at county fairs and entertains fantasies of snaring a handsome sheikh. “I’d be willing to settle for third-favorite wife, but no lower,” she figures. In the end, Soffee, now 36, finds happiness with an “anti-Arab,” a young, fair-skinned, non-rich man who is nothing she thought she wanted. Her tale may not be profound, but it’s good-natured, funny and tartly told. (Chicago Review Press, $22.95)

Bottom Line: Full of belly laughs

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