Josephine Baker’s Last Dance

Written by Sherry Jones
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

Josephine Baker may not be as well-known as some other movie stars of her era, but her rags to riches story is one of the most fascinating. Josephine was born in St. Louis to a poverty-stricken family; her mother saw her as just an extra mouth to feed, so she “sold” her child as a laborer to a few different families. But Josephine always knew that she was destined for something more, and ultimately clawed, crawled, and fought her way out of her circumstances.

A combination of fortuitousness and luck and perseverance and connecting with the right people landed her opportunities to become a star in France. She came back to the United States on and off but quickly learned that Europe was more accepting of her, her vaudeville act, and her trademark banana skirt.

The author paints Josephine as a free spirit, one who was uninhibited and took risks in her personal and professional life. Josephine created her own persona and made her own rules, both on and off the stage. She fought injustice and racism around every corner, helping with the French Resistance during World War II and later supporting the American Civil Rights movement.

It is evident that the author conducted meticulous research before writing this book, as she has brought Josephine Baker fully to life in its pages. Baker’s roller coaster of a life was filled with adventure, conflict, love, heartbreak, and success, and the author tells her story with gusto.