Mahalia: a Life in Gospel Music
Candlewick Press 2002. Ages 10 and up.
available at your library or used bookstore
Born poor in New Orleans, young Mahalia Jackson astonished everyone who heard her powerful voice in church. When she grew up, Mahalia used her voice in a new kind of music, gospel. Through hit records, concerts, and protest marches with Martin Luther King Jr., Mahalia’s faith in God never wavered. Mahalia, with than fifty photographs, reads like a story, bringing depth and immediacy to the faith-driven life of the world’s most famous gospel singer.
“Events in the singer’s personal life and musical career are skillfully blended with material about the social climate of the times.” —School Library Journal
red star“Orgill writes in the introduction that she was inspired by Mahalia Jackson's singing and felt “freed to write a different sort of biography….” The writing is different from that of standard biographies. More colloquial and impressionistic, it creates vivid scenes and sometimes stream-of-consciousness passages: ‘One by one the white families moved out of the neighborhood and colored families moved in, until Mahalia no longer had any white neighbors. The grass stayed green. On Sunday mornings it was still quiet.’” —Booklist, starred review
Awards and Honors
American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults
New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age
“Halie, want to come in for a slice of butter cake?” a neighbor called from the doorway as Halie hurried by.
“No thank you, ma’am. Church tonight!”
Church was Wednesday and Friday nights and four times Sunday, and Halie never missed. Church didn’t mind if you were barefoot. Church took you in when your heart ached from knowing your mother was far away in Heaven. Church was home.
“Let it out, Mahala,” shouted Oozie Robinson, the choir director at Mount Moriah Baptist Church. He had a withered arm that jumped when he was excited, and he was excited. “‘What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear,’” Halie sang in her astonishing voice. She was twelve and her voice could be heard to the end of Millerton Street, where it competed nicely with Kid Ory’s band playing hot jazz music from a wagon parked on the corner. “‘In his arms he’ll take and shield thee. Thou wilt find a solace there.’”
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