Before I began reading this book I was warned that it was “gritty.” That was the exact word used. And the person who generously cautioned me was telling no lie. Oftentimes the story of the maturing Baby Teegarten made me cringe and my stomach churn. It had nothing to do with Beem Weeks’ writing style, but rather with the brutality young women were faced with during the 1920s.
The first person perspective allows readers to face Baby’s harrowing journey to making it big in a society that demeans girls and views them as commodities rather than human beings. Beem Weeks writes about broken dreams and the crushing weight of circumstance. While Baby has a vision of making it big in the northern United States, desperate for an escape from barren Mississippi, she is cut short and settles for the dark world of New Orleans speak easies. The real tragedy of the tale is that the summation of all the horrible events Baby experiences reflects the desperation some feel to escape, whether they are escaping a regrettable past or a home that never felt like home.
While I can’t say that this is a book I would read again, Beem Weeks’ writing skill is undeniable. I tend to prefer romance and stories that take me on an emotional journey that end in me ultimately feeling fulfilled and happy. When I finished this story I mostly felt dirty. But to accurately depict the tale of his protagonist, the author had no other way but to include those details for the sake of authenticity and perhaps even shock value. Returning to that warning I was given—Jazzy Baby was a chilling and indubitably gritty approach to a coming of age story.