Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Somebody’s Angel Child: The Story of Bessie Smith, Carman Moore gives a narrative account of the life and music of Elizabeth “Bessie” Smith, who was known as the “Empress of the Blues.” While the main focus of the book is the singer’s personality, Moore also alludes to the social and historical circumstances that shaped Smith’s music in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

The book’s treatment of its subject is not scholarly. Instead, Moore offers an intensely subjective account of the singer’s life. Although the work was not written specifically for young adults, the simplicity of its language and its conversational style make the text accessible to young people; the biography also serves as a useful source of information on a legendary figure in American music.

Moore’s biography is comprised of four major sections (each of which contains several subsections). The first section of the work is rather sketchy, as the least is known about this period in the singer’s life. In this section, Moore describes Smith’s early years as one of seven children growing up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He also discusses the beginnings of the singer’s lifelong musical journey. The second section is devoted to Smith’s teenage years and the growth of her musical reputation. In the third section, the author focuses on the years during which Smith’s career reached its peak and includes photographs of Smith, her band, her husband Jack...

(The entire section is 485 words.)