Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Book of Harlan by Berniece McFadden

The Book of Harlan
by Berniece McFadden

This is a book that didn’t just show a story, but sent it coursing through your veins as you listened to the music it described and created. It described the hey-day jazz age of Harlem in the 1930s, and shifted from pianist Emma and her husband, Sam, to their guitar-playing son, Harlan. Harlan’s travels with his bands illuminated the Jim Crow racism of the South, and the person demons of alcohol, womanizing, and drugs that were dangers for the main character. Music was seen as both a healing force, and a driving one.

I learned so much history I’d never known before reading this book. I had a chance to see the world through the eyes of African-American family members when they heard H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds on the radio, and felt the panic it created. I found the names of jazz greats I knew, like Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, and Jelly Roll Morton, as they were at a party with Harlan’s mother, Emma, and learned of other jazz greats I hadn’t known of. I also learned about Ilse Koch, The B–ch of Buchenwald, after Harlan and his friend Lizard were taken captive by the Nazi party in Paris on May 10, 1940. This teaches history that hasn’t been written of enough.

( publisher’s official Book of Harlan web page ) | ( official Berniece McFadden web site )

Recommended by Jodi R.
Gere Branch Library

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

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