Josephine Baker's Last Dance

Josephine Baker's Last Dance

by Sherry Jones

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Josephine Baker's Last Dance 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
GGGeiss More than 1 year ago
Josephine Baker was indeed strong, powerful and hard to ignore. She was a woman driven by her terrible upbringing and dreadful young life. I learned a great deal about Joséphine Baker and owe this to the voluminous research obviously done by the author to bring this historically factionalized novel to us. I agree with another reviewer, who said the author continually skipped periods in time and then told about them in a paragraph or two. These gaps left me feeling disconnected. I would search the Internet, while reading, for clarification. Thank you Netgalley and Gallery Books for the opportunity to read and review this ARC.
Cutiefulpink 5 months ago
I love reading historical fiction based on the lives of real people. There is something fascinating about reading events and situations and knowing that someone really experienced it. That's one of the reasons I find historical fiction so compelling as a genre. In this particular book, we meet Josephine Baker, first as a young child trying to survive in pre-WWII America. We follow her journey of harsh life lessons as she becomes a dancer, singer, resistance member, and activist. By reading this book, you are getting a glimpse of pre and post war society across the globe, and one woman's attempt to change it. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, especially the format. The book starts with Josephine giving her farewell show, which is a song and dance story of her life. Josephine narrates each scene of the show, describing the dancers, songs and costumes, then the reader shifts into that portion of her life. It's an extremely compelling way to frame a story, making the reader feel like they are traveling through her memories and back in time. This is an entire book set up as a pensieve (think Harry Potter), but with everyone who reads it having the required memory to use it. At times the book dragged a little, weighed down by the shear volume of horrific and wonderful events experienced by Ms. Baker. I can see how some people would have wanted further editing to make the book more to the point, but I can also see why the editor refused to cut anything. How do you choose what events are insignificant in shaping a life??? I know I don't want that job. Overall, this is a wonderful book that taught me so much about the world and its history. I learned about cultural differences I didn't know existed and fell further in love with Paris. If you love historical fiction, you will like this. But more importantly, if you want to read a book about a beautiful, talented, strong, courageous and smart woman, who overcame a harrowing childhood and a world that rejected her very existence, look no further.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Author extraordinaire, Jones’s novel Josephine Baker’s Last Dance although classified as fiction, Jones wrote the book with the accomplished knowledge and precision of Josephine Baker’s life. I took notes once I was lured into the novel and held captive for the sole purpose of going back to Josephine Baker’s life and fact-checking events, dates, and all things Josephine Baker. Jones’s Josephine Baker’s Last Dance was a replica of Josephine Baker’s life. It was palpable that Jones had completed extensive research on Baker and was unquestionably prepared to write Josephine Baker’s Last Dance. Having also been to Paris myself, I checked the streets, clubs, etc.. Yes, some events of Josephine Baker’s life were not included in the book, but purposely so. However, the essential facts in Baker’s life are there. While reading Josephine Baker’s Last Dance, it was as if I were getting reacquainted with an old friend. I was enthralled, going back through history and recalling Baker’s determination and struggle to fight back against anyone who got in her way because of the color of her skin. As part of the French resistance, Baker was resilient in her efforts to gather information from the German’s under the guise of being a notorious entertainer; it was Josephine that opened the doors that allowed her to move from country to country. Life is not quite as hateful and vulgar as it was when Josephine Baker was born, but just as she fought against racism, we continue to fight and stand against racism, sexism, etc., today. Lest there be anyone that questions the content of Sherry Jones’s novel let me be the one to tell you this was very much Josephine Baker’s life. To not have heard of Josephine Baker is appalling. Have we also stopped teaching History in schools today? Baker is an iconic historical figure. And she flew into Washington DC from France which was her adopted homeland, in 1963 when she was 57 years old to be part of Martin Luther King’s march of 250,000 people. Josephine Baker was the only woman to speak and did so before MLK spoke. Jones’s unique ability to pull off time-jumping, whether forward or backward was altogether ingenious. Often when an author time-jumps, you risk losing your readers. Time-jumping is difficult and is an art that must be mastered. I’ve heard many professors advise their students to avoid time-jumping, so they don’t risk losing their readers. However, I was immediately impressed by Jones’s ability to go back and forth in time. Anyone that writes or is an English major knows how difficult this is to pull off and yet Jones time-jumped as an experienced writer. At no time while reading Josephine Baker’s Last Dance did I find myself lost, confused or flipping back and forth. Josephine Baker’s life was sad and formidable; I strongly recommend all genres read Sherry Jones’s novel if for no other reasons than to not lose hope in where our country is today and to meet or reacquaint yourself with Josephine Baker. We all need hope and something to believe in, and perhaps you will find your confidence and belief through Josephine Baker’s story. Sherry Jones is a brilliant author, and the timing of her book couldn’t be better. Regardless of your political party, we can all glean steadfastness, longing, hope, belief, love, forgiveness, etc., from Sherry Jones’s five-star novel. Thank you, Simon & Schuster, NetGalley and Sherry Jones for the opportunity to read and review this 5 Star novel. D.B. Moone
teabird More than 1 year ago
Why read a fictional biography? Sometimes, there is no choice: biographies may be out of date, or nonexistent. When they are available, they may be too linear to capture more than the facts, just the facts, ma'am. There are biographies of Josephine Baker, the "Black Pearl," if the reader wants to know who, what where, and when. I doubt there ever will be one that captures the wild energy, the passionate spirit, and the artistry that came together in this spectacular woman the way Sherry Jones has done. She has shown us the how and why, and filled in the spaces - the beauty and the ugliness, both - that underlay the public spectacle of the glittering international star. The Josephine Baker who sailed to Paris in 1925 had already powered through enough personal suffering and systemic racism to flatten most people. But, with unlimited talent and drive, she escaped initial rejections in the United States ("too skinny and too dark") by landing a job that took her to the integrated world of Paris. There, her breakthrough abandon and energy in "La Danse de Sauvage," clad only in a skirt made of faux bananas, brought artistic acclaim and access to all she ever wished for: the extravagant lifestyle, a starring role at the Folies Bergere, a film career. She searched endlessly for love while hobnobbing with Colette, Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, and the rest of the expatriates. Her dreams of Europe changed as Brownshirts and Nazis came to her shows and made their vicious intentions clear. A return to New York showed her that not even her fame could break through the racism, and she returned to Europe, disillusioned. She continued to sing and dance and act the role as an international sensation, but used her position to work as a spy and pilot for the Resistance, facing mortal danger in the name of freedom. After the war, she shifted her focus to challenge racial discrimination wherever her career took her, despite personal heartaches and ill health. Back in America, she forced nighclubs to integrate if they wanted her to sing, she called attention to African-Americans on Death Row who were victims of racist justice, and she participated in very public and challenging actions with the NAACP. The happiest day of her life, she said, was when she participated with Joan Baez and others, introducing Rev. Martin Luther King before he gave his speech, "I have a dream." Later, she created a Rainbow Tribe by adopting twelve children, demonstrating how beautiful a multi-ethnic world could be. All of the episodes in this gritty and granular novel are set as her memories during her last performance, celebrating fifty years of stardom in Paris. The reader will come away breathless with admiration for the power and energy of Josephine Baker's life, and how she used her fame to better the world. Watching videos on YouTube is a pale introduction to this groundbreaking woman. The reader's imagination will be well-served by this stunning novel. Five stars, because only five are available.
SuperReaderChick More than 1 year ago
I love Sherry Jones and the variety to be found in her books, so I was very excited to read her newest offering, Josephine Baker's Last Dance. From the very beginning I was held entranced by this incredible story and the life behind it. The first few chapters demonstrated the wildness of youth and a strength unknown to many. Josephine's life was truly fascinating, and it was as if I was along for the ride so vivid were the sights and sounds I was reading about. It was a fabulous journey alongside an extraordinary woman. When I was less than 150 pages into the book, I just had to sit back for a minute and think about what a remarkable life Josephine was living and not yet 21 years old. It rendered me speechless and made it hard to step away from the story for any length of time. And yet amidst the bright lights and loud life, Jones did a terrific job of showing that life when outside the limelight and the feelings held deep within our Josephine. There was a yearning there that was often overshadowed by the laughter and passion. Those emotions were there for the reader to feel and made this book one that will certainly stick with me for quite some time even after the end. When I read about Josephine's life in Paris in the late 30's and early 40's as the Nazi invasion and war loomed on the horizon, there was an eerie and ominous feel to the story. Here was a woman with a fire burning inside and a brave spirit willing to help in any way that she could. I was truly in awe of her of her courage and the work that she did to aid the allies. When Josephine returned to America and began her work for racial equality I cheered along with every triumph. She had already seen and done so much in her life, and yet here she was determined to do even more. Jones did an absolutely amazing job with writing this book. Josephine was truly a force to be reckoned with and I was completely enamoured with her by the end of the book. Josephine Baker's Last Dance comes highly recommended by me.
Rhonda-Runner1 More than 1 year ago
I was not familiar with Josephine Baker before I read this very revealing biographical novel about her. Josephine was a Black girl born in St. Louis, MO in 1906 to a poor family and was forced to go to work at age 6 to help support her family. Josephine had very little interest in school and loved to perform at the local theater where she danced, sang and was somewhat of a comic with her facial expressions. Josephine had to deal with racism, segregation and sexual abuse on her way from poverty to stardom in Europe, mostly in Paris, France as an actress, singer and dancer. She was a Civil Rights activist and a member of the French resistance during World War II as well. This is a very well researched and well written novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Fredreeca2001 More than 1 year ago
Boy! Josephine Baker was a unique and tough lady. She suffered an abusive mother and there were many nights she was not sure exactly where she would be laying her head. With her rough start in this world, she still became a famous singer/dancer, a civil rights activist and a spy. Parts of this story are difficult to read, especially at the beginning of her life. Josephine was raised in St. Louis by an abusive mother who threw her out of their home at the age of 13. This lead her to spend the night with an older man…her boss! As a matter of fact, Josephine was extremely promiscuous. There were many sexual partners throughout her life, some because it would help her career and some….just because. This is a well researched read. However, I felt disconnected from Josephine. There are many parts in this tale I felt needed expounding on and there are places that are rushed. I expected more out of the spy era. Also, the conversations do not seem exactly right. Not sure what is missing. But, this is a good read about an amazing lady! I love a book which teaches me a thing or two! This one definitely achieved that! I received this novel from Gallery Books for a honest review.