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Publisher's Summary

An enthralling literary tour-de-force that pays tribute to Detroit's legendary neighborhood, a mecca for jazz, sports, and politics, Black Bottom Saints is a powerful blend of fact and imagination reminiscent of E.L. Doctorow's classic novel Ragtime and Marlon James' Man Booker Award-winning masterpiece, A Brief History of Seven Killings.

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 Theater. 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 center 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 neighborhood the rival of New York City’s Harlem. 

Accompanying these “tributes” are thoughtfully paired cocktails - special drinks that capture the essence of each of Ziggy’s saints - libations as strong and satisfying as Alice Randall’s wholly original view of a place and time unlike any other. 

Supplemental enhancement PDF accompanies the audiobook.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2020 Alice Randall (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • rderr
  • 14-12-2020

Interesting Read. Too Much In Common with Today

This is a great read. It took me a the first few chapters to get into the flow of the structure as it is quite different than anything else I have read. The individual chapters have some that are more interesting than others, but overall, they're all great.

It is sad when reading this how it feels like we have made so little progress in some areas. Many of the over arching themes still ring true today. I got a better understanding of why cultural appropriation is such a sensitive topic because the book touches on the theft of culture. The book touches on how integration can have a tendency to steam roll over black history. There were many items like this I knew about, but never focused on that this book forced me to really think about.

I did not realize how much Iiked this book until I circled back to reread a few of my favorite chapters and how hard they hit me on the 2nd reading.

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  • Frances
  • 23-08-2020

Storytelling at its best

Engaging from first to last. I feel privileged to “know” the black bottom family and passing friends. A tiny glimpse; a slice; a diamond set in gold and platinum. More please. I have taken down the names to know more. Wow!

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  • Barbara Suhr
  • 26-09-2020

History through character studies

As a white Detroiter I was familiar with many places and moments but unfamiliar with much about my beloved city. I believe It’s essential to learn more about black history and culture - this book is steeped in it. Its filled with amazing stories of dynamic, smart and talented (often famous) people. Their portraits are at times poignant, graceful and at others gritty and resilient.

The structure is creative and fun with a cocktail for each “Black Bottom Saint”. I want to try some of these cocktails!

Thank you Alice Randall for another lovely novel!



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  • Pete
  • 06-09-2020

Wonderful

This book opened my eyes in ways unexpected. The performance of the book highlights the importance and work of picking just the right words when writing. I experienced the melody of the phrase. It opened my eyes to my parents, grandparents and great grandparents lives and the meaning for the generations.

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  • Richard
  • 28-08-2020

Amazing book

If you want to read something that gives you an entertaining perspective on the richness and difficulty of Black life in America in the middle of last century, listen to this book.

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  • Paul R Szydlowski
  • 26-08-2020

For Detroit-lovers and students of black culture

A fascinating and wildly creative look at Black culture and the Detroit neighborhood where it thrived like nowhere else. An essential book for anyone who loves Detroit or wants to understand how people can thrive even when everything seems designed to thwart them.

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