An honest, revealing portrait of the famed entertainer and activist who was born into extreme poverty and became an international iconic star of the Jazz Age.
Growing up in squalor in East St. Louis, sickly, unschooled, pushed by her mother to find work at the age of 7 and married at 13, Baker’s future looked bleak, but she was determined to leave her grim life behind. Her natural comedic ability got Baker work in vaudeville, and she quickly proved herself a gifted dancer and singer and found increasingly lucrative work. At 19, Baker was performing in Paris and, in a few short years, became an international sensation. Caravantes discusses how Baker used her fame to spy for the Allies during World War II and devoted time to entertaining troops. She also chronicles Baker’s work as a civil rights activist, using her clout to demand integrated audiences at her performances, publicly condemning racism in the United States, and adopting her Rainbow Tribe, 12 children representing different nationalities, ethnicities and religions in an effort to prove racial harmony possible. This warts-and-all portrait reveals that Baker was a complex, enigmatic personality who could be as selfish as she was generous, as mean-spirited as she was compassionate, and as inconsiderate as she was thoughtful.
A fascinating, compelling story of a remarkably resilient woman who overcame poverty and racial prejudice to become an international celebrity. (source notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 13-18)