February 11, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

Josephine: The Hungry Heart

Current Status
In Season
Chris Chase, Jean-Claude Baker

”I have stumbled over so many pebbles marking Josephine’s path through the world that I sometimes wonder if she is putting them out for me.” Josephine: The Hungry Heart is a stunning biography of Josephine Baker (born 1906 in the St. Louis Social Evil Hospital; died 1975 in a Paris hospital built for criminal women) comes out of two decades of obsessive research by Jean-Claude Baker, who knew her well but wasn’t related. The century’s great black sex symbol was a stripper, singer, | dancer, actress, and one of Europe’s biggest stars, but New York hotels barred her for being black. She was married at 13, again for a ”hot minute” at 15, and again, and again, and again. Both in real life and on stage ”she used her body as a weapon against the world because it was the only thing she trusted, it had got her where she was.” She smuggled World War II intelligence for the French Resistance, dallied with Picasso, Cocteau, and Castro (the FBI had a 1,000-page file on her). Spiced with some of the best biographical anecdotes in print, and even spicier photos, this book is about being a woman, black, indomitable, ravishing, brilliant, and impossible. A+

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