Carole Boston Weatherford–Becoming Billie Holiday

The What: Ms. Weatherford tells the story of Billie Holiday’s life in the first person, and in verse. She follows the singer from her parents’ meeting to her success in young adulthood. The poems are accompanied by illustrations by Floyd Cooper.

The Good: A novel! In verse! About Billie Holiday! With illustrations! Can you hear the happy? Weatherford takes the titles of Holiday’s songs as titles of and springboards for her poems. The result is a series of poems that reflect the life and art of this incredible woman. There are so many facts woven deftly into the lines, and they shed light on how Lady Day came to sing with such authority and insight. I love her music, but didn’t know much about her life; the inclusion of anecdotes as small as Billie being upset by a fly stuck in a car with her gave me a better understanding of the person, rather than the singer. Her early life was full of turmoil and disappointment, violence and abandonment. It makes the singer she became all the more impressive.

The Meh: Given that this story is being told in verse, I found much of the verse prosaic. I longed for the poems to have some sort of form constraint, rather than being whole sentences divided into seemingly arbitrary lines. That’s solely a personal aesthetic choice, and is no reflection of Ms. Weatherford’s talent as a writer.

Hand It To: Poetry fans, teens who are looking for a biography, Nancy Pearl’s language readers, and of course fans of Lady Day


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Beth
    Mar 03, 2010 @ 15:48:00

    I want! I like! I will read!


  2. Ari
    Mar 03, 2010 @ 19:45:25

    I’m going to be receiving this book soon and I’m excited to read it :) I havne’t heard much of Lady Day’s music and I HAD Lady Sings the Blues recorded on my DVR, but mom deleted it because we needed more space! wah. So now I need to watch the movie and read this book. I love how the titles of Lady Day’s songs are the names of poems as well. This book sounds quite creative, with a talented author.


  3. Jessica Neiweem
    Mar 03, 2010 @ 23:37:56

    @Beth: LOL, I’m glad! Wish I had a copy to send you, but I read the liberry’s, and I don’t think they’d fancy me mailing it out.

    @Ari: Oh, sad DVR deletion! I’ve never seen the movie you mention, though now I want to :D So glad to hear that you’ll be receiving a copy *happy for you*


  4. Yvonne McCalla Sobers
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 18:15:47

    Thanks for the info about the book. I am a fan of Lady Day, and I look forward to reading this novel in verse about her life.




  5. Jessica Neiweem
    Mar 15, 2010 @ 15:22:12

    Thanks for the kind words, Yvonne! I’m so glad to hear that you’ll be reading this book. Let me know what you think of it!


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