Black Bottom Saints
From the Great Depression through the post-World War II years, Joseph “Ziggy” Johnson, has been the pulse of Detroit’s famous Black Bottom. A celebrated gossip columnist for the city’s African-American newspaper, the Michigan Chronicle, he is also the emcee of one of the hottest night clubs, where he’s rubbed elbows with the legendary black artists of the era, including Ethel Waters, Billy Eckstein, and Count Basie. Ziggy is also the founder and dean of the Ziggy Johnson School of Theatre. But now the doyen of Black Bottom is ready to hang up his many dapper hats.
As he lays dying in the black-owned-and-operated Kirkwood Hospital, Ziggy reflects on his life, the community that was the centre of his world, and the remarkable people who helped shape it.
Inspired by the Catholic Saints Day Books, Ziggy curates his own list of Black Bottom’s venerable “52 Saints.” Among them are a vulnerable Dinah Washington, a defiant Joe Louis, and a raucous Bricktop. Randall balances the stories of these larger-than-life “Saints” with local heroes who became household names, enthralling men and women whose unstoppable ambition, love of style, and faith in community made this black Midwestern neighbourhood the rival of New York City’s Harlem.
NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS
A biographical novel of the significant artists, musicians, performers, civic leaders from Black Bottom, a neighbourhood in Detroit, MI. Randall uses the Catholic premise of a Book of Saints to craft portraits of real residents and then use the fictional device of their influence on the lives of two young black girls. Randall also invented specialty cocktails for each of the ‘saints’. A wholly original work incorporating all elements of creativity. Kansas City Public Library, United States