June 23, 2010 Nina Simone Biography Subject of Book Talk

“Princess Noire” Is Portrait of Brilliant Singer

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
Public Contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221

The triumphs and difficulties of the brilliant and high-tempered Nina Simone are documented in a new biography called “Princess Noire: The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone” (Pantheon, 2010) by Nadine Cohodas. The author will discuss and sign her work at the Library of Congress on Monday, July 12, at noon in the Mumford Room, James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public and sponsored by the Center for the Book as part of its Books & Beyond author series. The Serial and Government Publications Division is co-sponsoring this event.

Simone’s distinctive voice and music occupy a singular place in the canon of American song. Tapping into newly unearthed material, including stories of family and career, Cohodas draws a luminous portrait of the singer who was born Eunice Waymon in Tryon, N.C., in 1933, one of eight children in a proud black family. She is shown to be a prodigiously talented child who is trained in classical piano through the charitable auspices of a local white woman. The biography also tells of her devastating disappointment when she is rejected by the Curtis Institute of Music – a dream deferred that would forever shape her self-image as well as her music. Yet by 1959 – now calling herself Nina Simone – she had sung at New York City’s venerable Town Hall and was on her way to becoming a star.

Cohodas weaves in the central factors of Simone’s life and career: her unique and provocative relationship with her audiences (she would “shush” them angrily; as a classically trained musician, she didn’t believe in cabaret chat); her involvement in the civil rights movement; her two marriages, including one of brief family contentment with police detective Andy Stroud, with whom she had her daughter, Lisa; and her alienation from the United States, which drove her to live abroad.

Yet alongside these threads runs a more somber one: Simone’s increasing and sometimes baffling outbursts of rage and pain and her lifelong struggle to overcome a deep sense of personal injustice, which persisted even as she won international renown.

“Princess Noire” is from the author of the acclaimed Dinah Washington biography, “Queen.” Cohodas’s book is also the subject of a discussion on Facebook. The new Books & Beyond Book Club is available at www.facebook.com/booksandbeyond/. Here readers can discuss books, the authors of which have appeared or will appear in this series. The site also offers links to webcasts of these events and asks readers to talk about what they have seen and heard in those webcasts.

The Center for the Book (www.loc.gov/cfbook/) was established by Congress in 1977 "to use the resources and prestige of the Library of Congress to promote books, reading, literacy and libraries." With its many educational programs that reach readers of all ages, through its support of the National Book Festival and through its dynamic state centers in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Center for the Book has developed a nationwide network of organizational partners dedicated to promoting the wonders and benefits of reading. The center also oversees the new Read.gov website, with its exclusive "Exquisite Corpse Adventure" serialized story.


PR 10-152
ISSN 0731-3527