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March Bookshelf - I Never Walk Alone

Wrapping up Women's History and National Reading Month with, Dr. Christopher A. Brooks, author of Shirley Verrett's autobiography

As Women's History and National Reading Month come to a close, it's important to take a moment to reflect on the remarkable achievements of women throughout history. One woman whose story deserves recognition is Shirley Verrett, an African American opera singer who broke barriers in the music industry.

Verrett's life and career are chronicled in the book "I Never Walk Alone: The Autobiography of Shirley Verrett," co-written with Dr. Christopher A. Brooks. This inspiring memoir details Verrett's journey from her humble beginnings in Louisiana to her rise as one of the most celebrated opera singers of her time. Throughout her career, Verrett faced many challenges, including racism and discrimination. She was often told that she could not perform certain roles because of the color of her skin. Despite these obstacles, Verrett persevered, paving the way for future generations of African American singers.

As an internationally-recognized biographer, Dr. Christopher Brooks has produced several book-length manuscripts about musicians including I Never Walked Alone: The Autobiography of an American Singer (with the late Shirley Verrett, John Wiley 2003 now available in Kindle version, 2011); Follow Your Heart: Moving with the Giants of Jazz, Swing and Rhythm and Blues (with Joe Evans, University of Illinois Press 2008; second paperback edition, February 2011), and Roland Hayes: The Legacy of a Tenor Indiana University Press (December 22, 2014).

In "I Never Walk Alone," Verrett shares her struggles and triumphs with candor and grace. Her journey serves as a testament to the power of perseverance and the importance of breaking down barriers. The book is filled with behind-the-scenes tales of this diva's great performances, roles, and collaborations, offering insight into her stormy personal relationships as well as her private struggles and critical decisions. Featuring forewords by such figures as Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Zubin Mehta, and Claudio Abbado, this richly detailed book paints a vivid picture of a magnificent survivor and an indelible artist known around the world as the black Maria Callas. Her story reminds us that, even in the face of adversity, we can achieve great things.

I had the honor of speaking with Dr. Christopher A. Brooks on my podcast Harbour for the Arts. Dr. Brooks provides valuable insight and context throughout the book. His contributions shed light on the cultural and historical significance of Verrett's accomplishments, and his collaboration with Verrett gives readers a deeper understanding of her story.

As we celebrate the end of Women's History Month, let us remember the trailblazing women who have made a significant impact in their fields, like Shirley Verrett. Let us honor their achievements and continue to strive for a more equitable and just world for all.

Watch the video interview and a special presentation by Dr. Charles A. Brooks by Become a Box Office Circle subscription member for access to the video!


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