cover image Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker

Jose-Luis Bocquet and Catel Muller. Selfmadehero, $22.95 trade paper (496p) ISBN SBN 978-1-910593-29-5

Entertainer and civil rights activist Josephine Baker, who fled America to fame in Europe, remains one of the 20th century’s most fascinating figures, and this biography aims to capture why in encyclopedic detail. No era of her life is unexamined: we begin with her meager start in St. Louis and end with her death in 1975. While this is admirable—and never truly boring, as Baker had few boring moments—it is, by the end of 500 pages, exhausting. Every single moment receives the same amount of emphasis, from her dazzling triumph as the toast of Paris to her childhood waitressing jobs. That said, the book is a visual delight—Muller captures the elegance, charm, and clownishness that made Baker such a legendary performer with visual aplomb. It is clear in every page that Bocquet and Muller (Kiki de Montparnasse) adore their subject and wish to do her justice, but they miss the chance to transform a life into an engaging story of bigotry, sacrifice, and glamour. (May)