Josephine Baker (SelfMadeHero), by Jose-Luis Bocquet and Catel Muller
May. 30, 2017
Josephine Baker led a remarkable life, amply transcribed and pictured in a thick new graphic biography. Writer Jose-Luis Bocquet is guilty of an anachronism or two in the dialogue but renders an accurate impression of Baker as an indomitable force of nature. Born into the shantytown poverty of St. Louis, Baker (1906-1975) was an African American performer who became the toast of Paris in the 1920s and ’30s: a time when the city was the world’s cultural capital and a relatively tolerant refuge for a woman stung by American racism. Included is a detailed timeline that tries to sort fact from legend. Bocquet affirms that Baker spied for the Free French during World War II, knew just about every famous Frenchman and adopted children from a rainbow of backgrounds. Illustrator Catel Muller mirrors Harlem Renaissance imagery with her fluid, bold black-and-white frames.