Authors Name: Sherry Jones
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Galley Books
Genre: Fiction: African American Women, Historical, Biographical
Page Count: 384
ISBN: ISBN 9781501102448
Publication Date: December 2018, Release Date: December 4, 2018
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Other Novels by Author Sherry Jones: The Sharp Hook of Love, Four Sisters, All Queens, White Heart, The Sword of Medina, The Jewel of Medina
Disclaimer: I received Josephine Baker’s Last Dance from Simon & Schuster via NetGalley to read and write a review.
My Rating: 5 Stars
Author extraordinaire, Jones’s novel Josephine Baker’s Last Dance although classified as fiction is written with accomplished knowledge and precision of Josephine Baker’s life. I specifically took notes once I was lured into the novel and held captive for the sole purpose of going back to Josephine Baker’s life and fact-checking (everyone is fact-checking everything today – insert laughter) events, dates, and all things Josephine Baker. Jones’s Josephine Baker’s Last Dance was a replica of Josephine Baker’s life. It was patently obvious that Jones had completed extensive research on Baker and was unquestionably prepared to write Josephine Baker’s Last Dance. Having been to Paris, I also checked the streets, clubs, etc.. Yes, some events were omitted, but purposely so; the essential facts in Baker’s life were included in Jones’s novel.
While reading Josephine Baker’s Last Dance, it was as if I were being reacquainted with an old friend. I was enthralled, going back through history and recalling Baker’s determination and struggle to fight back against anyone who got in her way because of the color of her skin. As part of the French resistance, Baker was resilient in her efforts to gather information from the German’s under the guise of the notorious entertainer she was that opened doors and allowed her to move from country to country. Life is not quite as hateful and vulgar as it was when Josephine Baker was born, but just as she fought against racism, we continue to fight and stand against racism, sexism, etc., today.
“As they roll down the Avenue Paul Doumer, the Eifel Tower stands elegant over her right shoulder, the embodiment of Paris that, unlike the Statue of Liberty makes no promises and, therefore, tells no lies.” – Josephine Baker’s Last Dance
Lest there be anyone that questions the contents of Sherry Jones’s novel let me be the one to tell you this was very much Josephine Baker’s life. To not have heard of Josephine Baker is appalling. Have we also stopped teaching History in the schools of today? Baker is an iconic historical figure. And she did, in fact, fly into Washington DC from France which was her adopted homeland, in 1963 when she was 57 years old to be part of Martin Luther King’s march of 250,000 people. Josephine Baker was the only woman, the only woman of color, who did, in fact, speak and she spoke before Martin Luther King.
“Friends and family,” Baker began. “You know I have lived a long time and I have come a long way. . . .
“I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents. And much more. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad. And when I get mad, you know that I open my big mouth. And then look out, ’cause when Josephine opens her mouth, they hear it all over the world. . . .
“I am not a young woman now, friends. My life is behind me. There is not too much fire burning inside me. And before it goes out, I want you to use what is left to light the fire in you.” – Josephine Baker
So, yes, I remain surprised to learn that so many people have never heard of Josephine Baker. Jones efficaciously presented Baker to her readers from the time Baker understood her life was not the life for her and Jones does an irreproachable job in encapsulating this in Josephine Baker’s Last Dance. I found Sherry Jones’s novel to be more biographical than fiction; however, I understand why it would be classified as fiction. Josephine Baker’s Last Dance was astutely written by Jones. Baker’s many marriages and her multiple sexual liaisons were the results of two distinct reasons. One of which she was abused from the time she was born and wanted what everyone wants, to be loved; and as a spy for the French, Josephine found herself in multiple situations where sexual liaisons were her best means of obtaining information for the French.
Jones’s unique ability to pull off time-jumping, whether forward or backward was altogether ingenious. Often when an author time-jumps, you risk losing your readers. Time-jumping is difficult and is an art that must be mastered. I’ve heard many professors advise their students to avoid time-jumping, so they don’t risk losing their readers. However, I was immediately impressed by Jones’s ability to go back and forth in time. Anyone that writes or is an English major knows how difficult this is to pull off and yet Jones time-jumped as an experienced writer. At no time while reading Josephine Baker’s Last Dance did I find myself lost, confused or flipping back and forth.
Josephine Baker’s life was sad and formidable as the readers will discern when they read Josephine Baker’s Last Dance, and I strongly recommend all genres read Sherry Jones’s novel if for no other reasons as to not lose hope in where our country is today and to meet or reacquaint yourself with Josephine Baker. We all need hope and something to believe in, and perhaps you will find your confidence and belief through Josephine Baker’s story. Sherry Jones is a brilliant author, and the timing of her book couldn’t be better. Regardless of your political party, we can all glean steadfastness, longing, hope, belief, love, forgiveness, etc., from Sherry Jones’s five-star novel.
“Yes I will dance all my life. I was born to dance, only for that. To live is to dance. I would love to die breathless, exhausted, at the end of a dance…” -Josephine Baker