"I shall dance all my life...
I would like to die, breathless,
spent at the end of a dance."
I think it would be impossible to not read a book that begins
with the above quote. You can just tell the subject of the biography
was decisive, colorful, and much larger than life. It's also highly
probable that contemporary society was not ready for such a vibrant
being. Patricia Hruby Powell's Josephine: The Dazzling Life of
Josephine Baker is a most fitting tribute to a truly unforgettable
Josephine Baker was born out of wedlock (in a time that was very
much looked down upon) to a woman who scrubbed floors and took in
laundry. She and her family lived in the slums in St. Louis. Ragtime
was big then. She danced right from the very beginning.
Josephine came of age in an America marked by racial prejudice
and violence. Everything was segregated. When she left home with a
traveling singing group (at the age of 13) on the black vaudeville
circuit, she couldn't set foot in many hotels and restaurants. Even
after she made it in New York City, she had to use back doors to get
to work and couldn't try on hats in stores.
Josephine wondered if there was anywhere that race didn't
matter. She found that place in Paris, France. This was the place
where she felt beautiful for the first time in her life. When she
danced on stage:
"Deep-trapped steam FLASHED and WHISTLED.
Josephine was on fire.
CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT.
knees squeeze, now fly
arms scissors and splay.
Word got out.
the theater CRACKLED with
And that was just the beginning. Life didn't suddenly become a
bed of roses for Josephine. She faced many more challenges. But she
lived it on her own terms.
If razzmatazz and all that jazz make your heart skip a beat, you
owe it to yourself to read the book told in lively free verse and
share it with the kids in your life, especially those determined to
dance, rather than plod, through life.
On a personal note, Eugene surprised me one morning after working all
night. He took me to Dennys for a most delightful breakfast. Gotta
love a diner. They're that sweet spot between burgers, fries, and toy
prizes and expensive places that inculcate fears of using the wrong
fork or making a similar faux pas.
A great big shout out goes to Eugene.
Sent from my iPod