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Josephine Baker: Entertainer

Josephine Baker: Entertainer

by Alan Schroeder, Heather Lehr Wagner

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Elizabeth D. Schafer
This revised edition of the author's 1991 biography of Baker retains most of that version's text supplemented with sidebars. The biography follows Baker's metamorphosis from impoverishment to celebrity, emphasizing her performances, humanitarianism, Civil Rights activism, and wartime resistance and spying activities. Unfortunately, the author relied on questionable sources and trusted Baker's accounts, which, reveling in dramatizing her life, she acknowledged occasionally exaggerating or fabricating, such as falsely claiming she lived in East St. Louis, Illinois, during the 1917 riots. This biography names Baker's father, although that person was never publicly identified, and does not discuss how Baker's possible white paternity contributed to her frustration with discrimination from blacks and whites regarding her skin color. This author does not describe female relatives' influence on Baker, nor does it tell how she nurtured hometown family ties, moving her mother and sister to France. This biography does not mention Missouri and St. Louis memorials honoring Baker. Recommended resources do not include the website for the Western Historical Manuscript Collection in St. Louis, which holds archival material featuring Baker. Overall, this biography successfully captures Baker's essence as a kind, generous, impetuous free spirit. Read with Margot Ford McMillen's and Heather Roberson's profile of Baker in Into the Spotlight: Four Missouri Women (2004), which clarifies inconsistencies biographers have perpetuated. Part of the "Black Americans of Achievement Legacy Edition" series.
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-- Due to a recent television movie, there may be renewed interest in this multitalented individual who overcame difficult odds to succeed. At the age of 13, dressed in a skirt of bananas, Baker dazzled and riveted her audience in Paris during a performance at the Folies-Bergere. She soon became the toast of European entertainment and enjoyed superstardom as the highest paid entertainer of her era. This was no small feat for a woman who was born in St. Louis in 1906 to a washerwoman and endured a childhood of poverty. This biography probes beneath the glamour, flamboyance, and controversy surrounding this international star to reveal a woman who was a crusader for racial equality and a strong supporter of the Allies' effort during World War II. Schroeder details her subject's early struggles to make a name for herself in the United States and the impact that she had in Europe, a place that allowed her freedom and mobility which--even with her stardom--she was unable to obtain in this country. The author provides a balanced portrayal by relating how personal flaws, poor business decisions, and health problems contributed to Baker's decline in status. Black-and-white photographs appear throughout, some of which strikingly capture the essence of Baker. This biography aptly illustrates how, beneath the sensationalism and immense wealth that later surrounded her, Baker tried to leave a legacy for the world to emulate. --Jeanette Lambert, LaVega School, Waco, TX

Product Details

Facts on File, Incorporated
Publication date:
Chelsea House Black Americans of Achievement Series
Product dimensions:
6.70(w) x 9.40(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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