Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.
It is because of Lynn Whitfield that I got to know Josephine Baker.
Hopefully, it will be thanks to Peggy Caravantes that more young girls will get to know her.
Carvantes’ biography of Baker is one of those rare works where the subject is presented with taste but with a strong light. While written at a level for a pre-teen or teen, the book does not hesitate to lighten or disregard the warts.
It is to Carvantes’ credit that in her introduction she points out the difficulty in writing about Baker and her life story. The book starts with Baker’s early and confronts not only the poverty and racism, but also the attempted molestation. When discussing Baker’s introduction to the stage as well as her early contract signings, Caravantes doesn’t present Baker in a flawless light (and this transcends to the adoption of the Rainbow Tribe in Baker’s later years). Baker’s lack of education, relationship with money (or lack thereof), pride, and emotional storms are all presents if unflinching, with description and hands off approach that allows the reader to reach a conclusion about Baker. Caravantes’ also, briefly, presents brief “where are they now” biographies of the Rainbow Tribe.
Baker’s work as a spy is detailed, but more importantly so is the reaction to her performances in the rising Nazi Era with reaction to her tour. Her later life work and ties to Civil Rights as well as the impact of some of her public statements is dealt with in context, not just the statements but the events leading up to them. Baker comes across as some who is passionate and dedicated, but prideful and family driven.
Baker comes across as human and all the more heroic because of that. Caravantes is not only introducing Baker to the coming generations, she and Baker are showing them that you can be who you are.