Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ms. Janis Joplin, Please Rise.

YALSA just gave this book the "excellence in non-fiction" for teens award and named it the best non-fiction book for young adults in 2011. I was pleasantly surprised to read Ann Angels rendition of the "blues mama" of the 1960's, as it didn't shy away from the difficult dimensions that comprised much of Joplin's life; including her struggles with drugs, sexuality, and personal identity. The book begins with Joplin's childhood and early upbringing in Port Arthur, Texas and follows her throughout her adolescence--a period in time in which she yearned for freedom from the confines of small town living and hungered for musical stardom.
We witness as she obtains the fame that ultimately begins to destroy her and silently bite our nails as she descends into a lifestyle of fast living, drugs, and madness. All the while, we can't help but admire and cheer for the young woman who becomes the raspy voice of the 1960's, spurred on by her idols such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, to become the highest paid female artist of the decade.
This biography is ultimately a tale of Joplin's taste for life, music, and high stakes, while integrating the infamous poisons she allows into her life that ultimately lead to her tragic death at the Landmark Hotel in 1970. Amy Angel does an excellent job of focusing on Joplin's life rather than her untimely death, which is further enhanced by the multitude of beautiful photos included in the book.
Because of some mature themes, I would recommend this to older teens who can handle photos of nudity (there's at least one), drug elements, and issues of sexuality. Teens and adults who are interested in the 60's, hippie culture, the music scene, or are just HUGE Joplin fans will devour this one in an hour or less.

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