Jessye Norman is my girl, and I love her. Although I did not actually grow up along side Ms. Norman (she is after all 69 and I am 25), I grew up with Jessye Norman singing to me in the kitchen. I remember as a wee little girl walking into the kitchen and hearing “Steal Away” pour out of the little boom box speakers. Her “Amazing Grace” cd was always sitting on top of the boom box, and I remember wondering who was that gorgeous woman with the thick hair. Ms. Norman, who has retired from performing, has written a memoir in which she recalls her childhood growing up in Augusta, Georgia, her family life, and, of course, her extraordinary career.
From Booklist, “Raised in Augusta, Georgia, a child of the Jim Crow and civil rights era, Grammy-winning, international opera singer Norman offers a broad and global perspective on life, the arts, and spirituality. Encouraged at an early age, she recalls playing on her grandmother’s pedal organ, listening to her mother and grandmother sing spirituals, and taking to heart her mother’s admonition to stand up straight while reciting and singing. She recalls a long line of ancestors and the tight-knit community who encouraged her to go beyond the limitations of race and sex. Surrounded by music, from gospel to jazz to classical, and inspired by Marian Anderson, she started singing in church. Her talent was later nurtured at Howard University, and she went on to a career singing at the Berlin Opera and the Metropolitan Opera. Looking back on her life, she marvels at her long journey from the segregated South to a dazzling career in the arts. Norman recalls memorable performances and makes observations on the power of beautiful music to enter the spirit and simply live there. Her inspiring memoir includes lyrics of her favorite songs. –Vanessa Bush”.
Stand Up Straight and Sing! is available to purchase now on hardcover and e-book.