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If You Can't Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday
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If You Can't Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  80 ratings  ·  6 reviews
More than four decades after her death, Billie Holiday remains one of the most gifted artists of our time–and also one of the most elusive. Because of who she was and how she chose to live her life, Lady Day has been the subject of both intense adoration and wildly distorted legends. Now at last, Farah Jasmine Griffin, a writer of intellectual authority and superb literary ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 30th 2002 by One World/Ballantine (first published May 14th 2001)
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Three stars probably isn't fair because in so many ways this is a great book, an important and necessary one, that gets at the necessity of Billie Holiday's "culture of dissemblance" as a mode of self-protection. Griffin also delves into the ways the categories "black woman" and "genius" are held at arm's length. This is also a great book to teach because it covers a number of black feminist concerns in a very accessible manner. So why 3 stars? I wanted more. I wanted the discussions to be longe ...more
Using transcripts of interviews with Billie's contemporaries; friends and band mates and casual acquaintances Ms. Griffin paints a vivid picture of Lady Day showing the complexities of her life against the back drop of the era.
The writing shows her as a human being (as much as a legend) and through the eyes of those who knew her you see Ms. Holiday's fears, anger, love, violence and courage. It is a biography that gives the reader an opportunity to know more about Billie and determine for thems
Michael Borshuk
A poetic study about Holiday's complicated legacy, written with great self-consciousness and affectionate by a lifelong Holiday devotee. At times, the discussions were maybe a bit too impressionistic for my academic tastes, but this is a lovely read.
A great book about Billie Holiday and her legacy, and the position of the Black African-American woman in general. Even if you don't know the singer at first, this will make you want to.
excellent book - love that the author doesn't know all about billie holiday but she still treats her like family. even the missing pieces in her story become precious.
Tanji Gilliam
Jun 19, 2007 Tanji Gilliam rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: billie holiday fans and every other black woman previously unaccounted for
music scholarship can be as vibrant and passionate as the cultures being studied.
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Farah Jasmine Griffin is a professor of English and comparative literature and African American Studies at Columbia University, where she has served as director of the Institute for Research in African American studies.

In addition to editing several collections of letters and essays she is the author of Who Set You Flowin’: The African American Migration Narrative (Oxford, 1995), If You Can’t Be F
More about Farah Jasmine Griffin...
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