Monday, February 7, 2011

Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing - for Nonfiction Monday

Angel, Ann. Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing. New York: Amulet Books, 2010. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults (2011)

Janis Joplin, one of the first female rockstars, was and still to some extent is the face of psychadelic rock and the 60s. Her amazing voice brought her fame, fortune, and the adoration of millions, but none of that could save her from herself.

This well-researched biography of Janis Joplin starts at her high school in Port Arther, Texas and follows her life and career to their untimely end a little over 10 years later. It's full of (awesome) pictures, is not bogged down by the recitation of dates, has a great bibliography for further reading, a chronology, and a brief index. It is a biography that you can give, with confidence, to teens looking for more information on a great artist or someone interesting to write about for an assignment.

But Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing is more than the average biography. Angel brings Joplin to life. She manages to balance personal Janis and rockstar Janis on the page, something real life Janis always struggled with. The result is a history of the era and environment that produced Joplin the icon, as well as the story of how normal kids, like Joplin, dealt with all the changes the 60s brought about. Anecdotes from Joplin's friends and band mates appear throughout the text as do professional pictures of Joplin and her bands. The most quoted person in the book is Laura, Joplin's little sister. Sex, drugs and rock n'roll are definitely present in the book, and the over the top drug use is discussed, but Angel shows that Joplin's drug use was never her biggest problem. It was Joplin's need for love and attention that drove her to perform, and it was her fans' love of her drugged-up persona that drove her to use.

But it was Joplin's voice that made her a success, and somehow that comes through on the page. Maybe it was just that I had "Piece of My Heart" and "Me and Bobby McGee" stuck in my head for most of the time I spent reading this book (until "Mercedes Benz" was mentioned of course), but I thought Angel conveyed the grit and soul of Joplin's voice amazingly. Readers will be clamouring to find copies of Joplin's music with her various bands after reading this, if that music wasn't what prompted them to pick up this biography in the first place. If it was, they'll be singing along.

Book source: ARC picked up at ALA

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for the sweet review of Janis Joplin Rise Up Singing. I'm honored to be part of Nonfiction Monday.
Ann Angel

Janet Halfmann said...

Great review. Thanks for sharing it. I'm look;ing forward to reading this biography.

anachronist said...

I love bios and I might be tempted - thanks for a great review. Janis was unique.

Lawral the Librarian said...

Ann - Thanks for stopping by!

Janet and anachronist - thanks! and DO check this bio out. it really is a great read. :)