Thursday, April 4, 2019


Why I Wrote About Josephine Baker by Sherry Jones @sherryjones #writing

Why I Wrote About Josephine Baker by Sherry Jones

My novels tell the lives of extraordinary women in history who overcame formidable obstacles to achieve their highest potential—which, for me, always involves making a positive difference in the world. I delve into these women’s lives in hopes of inspiring others and myself.  And yet when I first considered writing about Josephine Baker, the African-American performer who hit it big in Paris in the 1920s, I expected a romp. I wanted it, in fact. Having wept as I wrote The Sharp Hook of Love, my tragic novel about the 12-century French lovers Abelard and Heloise, I was ready for some light-hearted fun. A pretty woman who danced and made funny faces wearing nothing more than a skirt of bananas seemed just the ticket.

But Ms. Baker, as it turned out, was a lot more than a nude, comic Parisian dancer.

Josephine Baker was a woman who lived life on her own terms, fearlessly and with heart. Raised in poverty by abusive parents, she dreamed big, pursued her goals with passion, and succeeded beyond even her wildest imaginings—and then risked all, even her very life, to make the world a better place.
First as a World War II spy for the French Resistance and then as a trailblazing U.S. civil rights activist, Josephine Baker used her power and her platform to fight for justice and equality against the forces of tyranny and hatred, prefiguring the anti-colorist activism by current celebrities including Colin Kaeparnick, Oprah, and Rihanna.

From the 1917 East St. Louis race riots to the 1963 March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the adoption of a “Rainbow Tribe” of 12 children of various races and cultures, Josephine Baker dedicated most of her life to eradicating racism. Although she felt encouraged by the changes that occurred during her lifetime, she knew the struggle for “her people” was only beginning. She was a fighter to the end, and also a lover—not just of individual men and women, but of all humanity.
When I feel overwhelmed by the vitriol and violence rearing its ugly head in America today, I draw on Josephine Baker’s courage, strength, and determination for the power to persevere. I wrote JOSEPHINE BAKER’S LAST DANCE with the hope that it will inspire others to keep fighting the good fight—to, as she said in her 1963 speech, “light that fire in you, so that you can carry on, and so that you can do those things that I have done.” Given her many remarkable accomplishments, it’s a tall order, indeed.

Author: Sherry Jones
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 304
Genre: Biography/Historical

From the author of The Jewel of Medina, a moving and insightful novel based on the life of legendary performer and activist Josephine Baker, perfect for fans of The Paris Wife and Hidden Figures.

Discover the fascinating and singular life story of Josephine Baker—actress, singer, dancer, Civil Rights activist, member of the French Resistance during WWII, and a woman dedicated to erasing prejudice and creating a more equitable world—in Josephine Baker’s Last Dance.

In this illuminating biographical novel, Sherry Jones brings to life Josephine’s early years in servitude and poverty in America, her rise to fame as a showgirl in her famous banana skirt, her activism against discrimination, and her many loves and losses. From 1920s Paris to 1960s Washington, to her final, triumphant performance, one of the most extraordinary lives of the twentieth century comes to stunning life on the page.

With intimate prose and comprehensive research, Sherry Jones brings this remarkable and compelling public figure into focus for the first time in a joyous celebration of a life lived in technicolor, a powerful woman who continues to inspire today.

Purchase Josephine Baker’s Last Dance in paperback,  ebook,  and  audiobook  formats on  Simon and Schuster’s website (available on Amazon,  Barnes and Noble,  BooksAMillion,  Indiebound,  Kobo,  and  other sites). Learn more about Sherry’s books  at

I, Beatrice of Savoy, am mother to four queens. What other woman in the history of the world could make this claim? None, I warrant, and none ever will.
Yes, I am boasting. Why shouldn’t I? Do you think my daughters rose to such heights by happenstance? A woman achieves nothing in this man’s world without careful plotting. I began scheming for my girls before I even held my eldest, Marguerite, in my arms.
Margi was no ordinary child. She spoke in sentences before her first birthday. But then, she is a Savoy, and we are no ordinary family. If we were, we would not have become guardians of the Alpine passes and rulers of an expanding domain, as well as friends of kings, emperors, and popes. How did we achieve such feats? Not by brutish battles and conquests, but with shrewd alliances and strategic marriages. My children, too, would marry well, I determined, and increase our family’s influence as never before.
Here is how I fulfilled this vow: I raised my daughters as if they were sons. Oh ho! I see shock on your face. Are you surprised also, then, to learn that I called them “boys”? Having taken my schooling alongside five of my eight brothers—in philosophy, Latin, astronomy, mathematics, logic, diplomacy, debate, hunting, archery, even swordplay—I recognized this: knowledge is the key to power. Why do you think men reserve it for themselves, leaving only fluff and nonsense for girls? What good to a girl are needlework, curtseying, drawing pictures, and feigning interest while a man prattles on and on about himself? These endeavors—the essence of feminine schooling—serve only to enhance men, and to diminish women. Wanting success for my girls, I taught them as though they were boys, endowing them with true power—the kind that comes from within.
When Margi was nearly of age, I enlisted my brothers to find a king for her to marry. Being Savoyards, we plotted. Amadeus, Guillaume, and Thomas praised her beauty, intelligence, and piety in courts near and far, and before every guest they entertained. Meanwhile, I charmed Sordel, the troubadour, to write a song in her honor, then paid him handsomely—with gold and, yes, kisses, but not the prize he preferred—to perform it before the French King Louis IX. Thusly captivated, the king sought Margi’s hand—and before long, my four daughters were queens of the world.
I would have made them kings, if I could. Instead, I made them mothers of kings. It was the best I could do for them, and for the House of Savoy—for my family—now and in the future.
Family is everything. Nothing else matters. All other bonds may be broken—friendship, marriage, even queenship—except the ties that bind us to our relations. This is the second lesson I taught to my daughters: Family comes first. To my great sorrow, however, my words fell against their ears and bounced away, like seeds on a bed of stones.
If only they would heed my admonishments now, and help one another. Instead, they seem intent on tearing one another, and our family, apart. And I? I cajole, and advise, and lecture—and avert my gaze from them lest I cry a weak woman’s tears. O, how it breaks my heart to see my girls suffer.

Author and journalist Sherry Jones is best known for her international bestseller The Jewel of Medina. She is also the author of The Sword of MedinaFour SistersAll QueensThe Sharp Hook of Love, and the novella White Heart.  Sherry lives in Spokane, WA, where, like Josephine Baker, she enjoys dancing, singing, eating, advocating for equality, and drinking champagne.

Her latest novel is Josephine Baker’s Last Dance.


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