Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing by Ann Angel


Angel, Ann.  Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing.  

Link to Author’s Website:  http://www.annangelwriter.com/index.html

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Reader’s Annotation:  Follow Janis’ from life as a high school girl craving to fit in to the over-the-top rocker.


Still remembered and celebrated decades after her untimely death at age twenty-seven, Janis Joplin’s story is told in engaging pictures, testimonials of family and friends, and other primary resources.  Not part of the popular crowd in high school, Janis always sought respite from her insecurities by eventually flaunting conventions and embracing the Beatnik philosophy of personal freedom and rejection of conformity.  Leaving her hometown in Texas, Janis soon finds herself in caught up in the flower child lifestyle of the Haight in San Francisco, California and finding a place performing with the band Big Brother.  Despite her success with the band, her continued insecurities lead her to find solace amidst the self-destructive atmosphere of the music industry.  Sex, drugs, drinking, and addiction soon became part of Janis’ life and ultimately, her death.


Ann Angel compiled information from a variety of sources to create this award winning biography.  Because the information came from family and friends, the portrait that she is able to create of Janis is much more personal and shows much more than an out of control musician who flamed too brightly and too quickly before burning out.  The letters from family members and information from interviews of band mates gives a different insight into the often larger than life figure that Janis created for herself.  What’s more, is that the reader can better understand WHY she created that persona for herself.  The text is easily accessible and understandable for a variety of readers.  With a picture on almost every page, the use of images and even the more thematic graphic elements like the colors and patterns used on the pages call to mind the colors and images of the 1960’s.  There may be some concern about the subject matter, as Angel does address Joplin’s drug and alcohol addiction and abuse, her sexual promiscuity and relationships, and even abortion.  These are dealt with factually, but without glamorizing them, and without them being the focus of the biography.  Overall, the story was told in an engaging fashion accompanied by pictures and information that gives the reader an intimate view of Janis Joplin.

Rating Scale:

    • Popularity:1 – Would sit on shelves unread; 2 – May see the light of day as an assigned reading; 3 – Interesting to readers, may need marketing; 4 – Very appealing read, ; 5 – Need multiple copies, because it would always be checked out!
    • Quality: 1 – How was this book ever published?; 2 – Poor literary quality; 3 – Average literary quality, nothing stands out as exceptional; 4 – Overall high quality literary quality, with certain areas of exceptional literary quality; 5 – Well-crafted of the highest literary quality
  • Popularity: 4
  • Quality: 4

Genre and Subgenre:  non-fiction, biography

Appeal Factors:  popular culture icon, music, photographs

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Buried Alive: The Biography of Janis Joplin by Myra Friedman
  • Love, Janis by Laura Joplin
  • Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix by Charles R. Cross

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Booklist’s Top Biographies for 2011
  • YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults
  • 2011 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Janis in high school and the Beatnik philosophy
  • The description of the atmosphere and environment of California in the 1960’s
  • Description of Janis’ larger than life persona in action (speeding around in her Porsche, drinking with the Rolling Stones, calling attention to herself)

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Why Janis may have created the Pearl persona
  • Why did blues appeal to Janis and how did it manifest in her work
  • Janis as a female rock star in a field dominated by males

Why I Chose This:

I chose this text because it was on a female musical figure who was influential in the rock and roll industry and remains popular to this day.  I liked the way it included anecdotes and photographs that brought her to life.  It was also interesting that she was framed by the author as a series of contradictions: a successful woman in a male dominated field, a white singer of the blues, and the indulgence in adulation which eventually lead to her demise stemmed from her need for acceptance and approval.