STARRED REVIEW
October 27, 2015

A dancer’s rising star

By Walter Dean Myers
Review by

Following the life and brief fame of a young black dancer living in New York City during the 1840s, Juba! is the historical tale of one man’s desire to use his art as activism to overcome the systemic racism that has hindered his people, and his nation, for generations.

Share this Article:

Following the life and brief fame of a young black dancer living in New York City during the 1840s, Juba! is the historical tale of one man’s desire to use his art as activism to overcome the systemic racism that has hindered his people, and his nation, for generations.

Scraping by in the impoverished and Irish-immigrant Five Points district, William Henry Lane—better known by his stage name, Master Juba—lives to dance. But Juba rarely gets the chance to dance for pay these days, as the racial divisions between what an audience wants to see (blackface and minstrel shows) and what an artist wants to perform (something that transcends race and vague stereotypes) hold him back.

During one of his earlier bookings, Juba catches a huge break and unknowingly is interviewed by well-known novelist Charles Dickens, who writes both a character sketch and a rave review of Juba’s incomparable dancing skills and talents when he returns to England. This sets in motion a life-changing whirlwind of events for the dancer. But as Juba begins to find fame with his art, he may have to sacrifice his happiness and pride to appease the jaded masses.

The recently deceased Walter Dean Myers wrote more than 100 children’s and YA novels throughout his lifetime, including the New York Times bestselling and Printz Award-winning Monster, and he won countless awards for the majority of them. Juba! is a strong final note for Myers, who used his unique and insightful voice to the shed light on the racial and social plights of a people ever searching for equality.

 

Justin Barisich is a freelancer, satirist, poet and performer living in Atlanta. More of his writing can be found at littlewritingman.com.

Trending Reviews

Get the Book

Juba!

Juba!

By Walter Dean Myers
Amistad
ISBN 9780062112712

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres every Tuesday.