Josephine Baker in Art and Life: The Icon and the Image

Bennetta Jules-Rosette, Author . Univ. of Illinois $25 (368p) ISBN 978-0-252-07412-7

Savage dancer, Black Venus, exotic Jazz Age star, liberated new woman, gender-bending cross-dresser, mother, socialist, war hero and writer—Josephine Baker (1906–1975) was all of those in life and in the images she projected. In this vibrant if academic portrait of Baker, Jules-Rosette alerts the reader that this is "not a biography" but an exploration of "the complex construction of Baker's multiple images in art and life." The first part opens with the tourist attractions that Baker sparked, not with her birth, then moves through her stage performance history, and concludes with an analysis of her films and films about her. In Part II, Baker emerges as a fully independent figure, influencing the art and fashion worlds, and in Part III, Jules-Rosette discusses the obstacles Baker confronted as she struggled to promote her ahead-of-its-time multicultural worldview. Jules-Rosette's scholarly deconstruction, generously documented (including more than 50 illustrations) and supplemented with a chronology, particularly helpful in a thematically structured work, will reward Baker fans. As well, the book's careful documentation, ample bibliography and discography add tremendous value for readers engaged in cultural, ethnic, diaspora or women's studies. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 01/01/2007
Release date: 02/01/2007
Hardcover - 368 pages - 978-0-252-03157-1
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