To forget Etta Moten is to miss the chance to celebrate a life as eventful as the twentieth century she traversed, an American biography that boasted not only a second act but a third and a triumphant fourth.
One might argue that blackface performances of the thirties and forties (and earlier) are so far in the past and such a product of their time as to be beyond judgment, but I’d disagree. I’d rather assessments of artists be made with knowledge of their warts and all.
All day long Polina sat anxiously waiting in her neighbors’ apartment, with its cracked windowpanes and boiling sausages, filled wall to wall with beds, piles of clothing, and damp water buckets sweating into towels.
He sank down and back then, buttoning a shirt he had thrust on, arranging objects from his pockets on the windowsill beside him, and began to eat a roll, after offering me one. Later when he went away to get some British illustrated papers about the removal of Yeats’s body to Ireland to show me, he brought back bananas, was very surprised when I didn’t want one, and rapidly ate both.
Before I tell you about the strange night I danced to “Hava Nagila” in a bar in Berlin, I have to admit that I think about this night often, and I think about it on two different occasions.