Jane Dunn

Heroine on Heroin

Wishing on the Moon: The Life and Times of Billie Holiday

By

Viking 480pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

This is a great sprawling mess of a book with all the exuberance and confusion of a Harlem gin mill. In the noise and crush of personalities, fascinating facts about the history of the African-American, the social, anthropological and geographical aspects of their lives – and encyclopedic details about the music – Billie Holiday is often lost from view.

The facts of her life are grim but commonplace to her time, her race and sex. She was born in 1915 to a teenage mother in Baltimore, when there was still no municipal sewage system and pigs roamed the streets as the only reliable refuse collectors. With a mother who could barely look after herself, let alone anyone else, and a feckless teenage father, Leonora (Billie) was sent at nine to a Catholic reform school where she was almost certainly inducted into petty crime and sex – lesbianism, as it happened, because, as a fellow inmate explained, it was something to do.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What a charming, candid blogpost from one of our dear contributing editors. ,
    • RT : The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the clas… ,
    • Merry Christmas from Literary Review! Hope your stockings were laden with books, and the tree bending under the weight of further books....,
    • Last minute Christmas gift required? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions (20% no less!) with the cod… ,
    • In this issue's 'Silenced Voices', Lucy Popescu writes of Thailand's restrictive lese-majesty laws and their latest… ,
    • "Gunn was a disciple of the American formalist Yvor Winters, but Winters’s poetry could never give off such a scent… ,
    • Christmas gift hunting? Why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscr… ,