A few fleeting moments in the head of Billie Holiday shows you a lifetime of woe.
Second-person narration is often tough to endure, but Smith achieves a distance in her attention to Holiday that never allows the reader to forget exactly whose life is being revealed.
They don’t know what to do with that. They don’t know what to do with the God-blessed child, with the girl that’s got her own, who can stay up drinking with the clarinet player till the newspaper boys hist the corners. And maybe one of these broads is married to that clarinet player. And maybe the two of them have a baby and a picket fence and all that jazz. So naturally she’s wary. You can understand that. Sure.
Anyone who needs a reason to listen to Holiday, or anyone who only knew her as a singer.
“Crazy They Call Me” by Zadie Smith