Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Janice Joplin, Rise Up Singing by Ann Angel
Amulet Books a division of Abrams, 2010

American rock legend Janis Joplin was my peer. But the day after she sang on the Ed Sullivan show, I became a mother. While she made headlines, I did laundry and planned supper. So I missed Janis. Ann Angel’s YALSA award-winning biography Janice Joplin, Rise Up Singing has filled me in.

Angel paints a portrait of young person who loved to laugh and sing and make art but was always on the fringes of her 1960s’ Texas peer group. Her taste in music – blues songs, her choice of clothing and her strong opinions on subjects like integration resulted in peer rejection and even taunts. Janis retreated into her art and her music, singing for the few artistic boys who were her friends.

It was on a night like this that Janis opened her eyes, saw the guys listening to her and admiring the music that came out of her like a prayer, and announced, I can sing.” And they agreed.

Janis became a star with her performance at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival.

She held the microphone close to her lips, like she was kissing it, as she sent her wild-woman sounds into the world. It was as if she was calling everyone to hear her sad story, to feel her agony, her longing and pain. With eyes closed, she wrung the blues out of “Down on Me.” She cried into the mic, “Everybody in this whole damn world is down on me….” When the song ended, all eyes were locked on her.

The beatnik culture offered Janis the opportunity for creativity she craved. It also opened the door to her eventual dependence on drugs and alcohol. Trying several times to kick her speed habit, Janis attempted to re-enter the hometown world she had never belonged to. But music won and by 1969 Janis was caught up in the hippie culture and also it’s experimentation with LSD.

Without judgment, Angel manages to tell the story of this young woman who embraced her talent and who succumbed to peer pressures and addictions that ultimately cost her life. Angel’s ability to present Joplin’s many facets, including her strong work ethic and love for her family, results in a very human portrait that will fully engage YA readers.

The book’s psychedelic design does more than hint at Joplin’s character. The title page and table of contents mirror the electric current that surrounded the first queen of rock. Bold chapter headings and page borders echo the flamboyance of the life she led and the star she became. Photos of Joplin, the bands she worked with and promotional posters add dimension to this intriguing biography of a music sensation.

Janis Joplin, Rise Up Singing
won the 2011 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association.
Discover other YALSA winners here.

Visit author Ann Angel’s website.

Check out other award winning books on the Gathering Books website.

AWB Challenge Status: 1 of 12


  1. I haven't read this book. I don't know the protagonist but based on your review, I somehow managed to look at her personality.

  2. Hmmm. . .Joplin isn't a figure I have much interest in, but this book sounds like a balanced look at her life (if that's possible). Thanks for highlighting a new award winner!

  3. Hi Joyce, I have a few of Janis Joplin's songs in my ipod - I'm a huge fa of that period - I have a special interest in revolutionary songs and music that speaks the reality of a given culture - e.g. Woody Guthrie, Dylan, Joan Baez, the works. A lot of it has to do with my own research with eminent Filipino musicians/singer-songwriters with whom I do active collaborations with. I have just recently read this academic book "Musicians In Tune" written by Jenny Boyd - and it speaks of the realities of 75 contemporary musicians and their dabbling with LSD and other substances during that period. I am keenly interested in this Joplin book for a number of reasons. I should definitely look for this book here in our libraries. Hope we have it here, though. Thank you so much for sharing.


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