Cover Image: The Heart of a Woman

The Heart of a Woman

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Member Reviews

Compiling The Heart Of A Woman was very much a labour of love for Rae Linda Brown who did see her project through to completion, but died before its submission for publication. The evidence of Brown's extensive research is breathtaking and, although her scholarly prose style did occasionally become a little too dry for my tastes, overall I enjoyed reading this biography of a very talented women, Florence Price, of whom I had previously been completely unaware. Since studying for GCSE Music over a quarter of a century ago (eeek!) I haven't given much thought to classical music, but I was grateful that enough of the terminology had sunk in that I was able to follow Brown through her technical descriptions of Price's work. I loved that snippets of the sheet music are dotted about the text so I could see and imagine the examples to which Brown was referring. It would be wonderful if this biography could also be accompanied by a recording of some of the songs and perhaps a symphony or two as well. Having read so much about Price, by the end of The Heart Of A Woman I was keen to actually hear a selection of the most famous compositions so I was delighted to find a few YouTube videos of Price's work being performed. (If you're reading this review on my blog, Literary Flits, I've embedded two of my favourite YouTubes towards the end of the post.

In common with other biographies I have read where primary source material about the subject is scarce, Brown presents information about linked and surrounding themes in order to fill out her picture of Price's life. Newspapers such as the Chicago Defender regularly detailed her professional musical engagements though the 1930s and 1940s, however as a shy and private woman, Price preferred to keep her personal life to herself. Therefore some of her life story had to be inferred. I was impressed that Brown didn't use this device too frequently and also that her employment of complementary information always felt useful and as though it added to our portrait.

Florence Price and her music are receiving a very well deserved resurgence of interest and I am so pleased to have had this opportunity to read her biography at this point in time. I loved learning about the Chicago Renaissance too. The Heart Of A Woman, in my opinion, doesn't have the best of titles for a scholarly musical biography so I hope it will gain a serious readership despite that. I recommend it for anyone interested in discovering classical music history, African American history, and overlooked women.
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I am a violinist in my local symphony orchestra and a lover of classical music. A few months ago, I purchased a CD of music by Florence Price and was fascinated by a woman who, despite her racial background, became successful as a composer. This book offered an opportunity to find out more about her, how she lived, and how she achieved recognition for her talent.

The book is written with a level of clarity and detail that not only presents the achievements of Florence Beatrice Price, but also chronicles the struggles and hardships she faced during her lifetime and chosen career.

The book also sets Florence Price in the context of the times she lived in, when black Americans were not regarded as equal citizens and subjected to disenfranchisement in many forms.

Florence Price was the first black woman composer to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra. She navigated the politics of skin colour, survived an abusive marriage and 'fought her entire life to be heard and seen’.

The story of Florence's life is fascinating, given that it also chronicles the work and achievements of several other important black musicians and composers, many of whom she knew and considered to be friends.

Florence Price was a private woman who suffered from 'unconquerable shyness' and this often inhibited her from promoting her own music.

The author, Rae Linda Brown, writes movingly of Florence's determination and desire to become a composer. She studied for two degrees simultaneously and graduated in both.

By the 1930s, Florence Price was a serious composer, writing in all genres apart from opera, and her music was regularly performed. She was also accomplished as a pianist and organist.

Florence Price composed three major works from 1931-1940, the Symphony in E minor, the Piano Concerto in One Movement and the Symphony in C.

Florence's Symphony No. 1 was performed in Chicago in 1933, with George Gershwin among the audience.

Florence Price continued writing large-scale works during the 1940s and 1950s. She died in June 1953. She had been planning a trip to Europe around that time.

Florence Price was aware of the polemics surrounding female composers. Her ultimate goal was for her large-scale works to be recognised and performed by the East Coast musical establishment; however, this did not happen in her lifetime.

Rae Linda Brown said in a speech that she chose to write about Florence Price because:

“I needed to bring her from invisibility to visibility and document her life and her music so that her legacy could be a lived legacy.”

On the evidence of this book, there is an extensive legacy and the music of this talented and industrious woman deserves a far wider audience.

I look forward to hearing more of Florence Price's music as it becomes available. In the meantime, this book is warmly recommended.

I was sent an advance review copy of this book by the University of Illinois Press in return for an honest appraisal.
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A very nice story of history and music. I enjoyed and would recommend. Grateful for the chance to read this book and learn about her life and work.
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This book tells the fascinating story of Florence Price, the first African-American woman to have a symphony performed by an American orchestra. The light-skinned Price passed herself off as Mexican in order to attend the New England Conservatory of Music..
She married, had two children and eventually settled in Chicago. After her husband began physically abusing her, she divorced and became a music teacher to support herself and her kids. 
Her break came when she won a composition contest with her Symphony in E Minor which was subsequently performed by the Chicago Symphony in 1933..  She continued to compose steadily until her death in 1953.. However; after her death, like so many early Twentieth Century tonal composers, Price's music became unfashionable, and she fell into obscurity. 
The tide turned in 2009 when a couple renovating a house that once belonged to Price discovered a cache of her manuscripts, long thought lost. The publicity of the discovery led to a renewed interest in Price's work. Since then. Price's music has begun to be performed and recorded, over half a century after her death. . 
The Heart of a Woman is must reading for those interested in the often overlooked role of Black Americans in classical music. It is also a inspiring story of succeeding against the odds.
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My love of music and the beautiful book cover drew me to this book. 

The Heart of a Woman is a complex and fascinating read of the music-centric life of Florence B. Price and its illusionary effect on the artistic and scholarly development of the lives of many African-Americans.  
This is not a typical biographical work. With analytical prose, Brown discusses Price’s intense role in the advancement of social change and equality in all areas of her life - music and daily life. 

Highly recommended to all those who study music history, particularly those who wish to study lesser known African-Americans in music.
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Fascinating book about a lady of who I was not aware. It was a really interesting and compelling read and one which I would heartily recommend
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A fascinating story that I didn’t know anything about. So glad I read this and will be recommending to others.
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This nonfiction book presents detailed research on the life and music of Florence Beatrice Smith. (Price). Florence Smith earned her place in American history as a prominent composer of symphonies and other classical type works. She was a woman and an African American and her life shows the challenges of the times. 

America’s first significant African American composer was born In Little Rock, Arkansas in 1887. At that time, Little Rock was the pride of the South. Florence  Smith’s family was educated, professional class, and well respected. Florence had access to school, the arts and to other prominent African American Leaders. She was able to attend the New England Conservatory of Music. Sadly, at school she identified herself as “Mexican” but her lifelong exploration of self through her music enabled to her to grown beyond the “politics of respectability.”

This book was written by an African American woman, a scholar and professor. The writing is scholarly and somewhat dry, but through it shines the inspiration of Florence Smith as she broke the racial and gender barriers for African American women composers. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the University of Illinois Press for an advance review copy. This is my honest review.
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Title: The Heart Of A Woman
Author: Rae Linda Brown
Genre: nonfiction

 The Heart of a Woman offers the first-ever biography of Florence B. Price, a composer whose career spanned both the Harlem and Chicago Renaissances, and the first African American woman to gain national recognition for her works. Price's twenty-five years in Chicago formed the core of a working life that saw her create three hundred works in diverse genres, including symphonies and orchestral suites, art songs, vocal and choral music, and arrangements of spirituals. Through interviews and a wealth of material from public and private archives, Rae Linda Brown illuminates Price's major works while exploring the considerable depth of her achievement. Brown also traces the life of the extremely private individual from her childhood in Little Rock through her time at the New England Conservatory, her extensive teaching, and her struggles with racism, poverty, and professional jealousies. In addition, Brown provides musicians and scholars with dozens of musical examples

 My thoughts
Would I recommend it? Yes
Would I read anything else from this author? No
While I do love reading nonfiction unfortunately this is one type of nonfiction I don't read hardly if any of .In fact the only other one I've ever read was a book about the person who write the greenbrae song , so going into this one I had no idea who Florence B.Price was or anything about her music ,in fact I've never even heard of her until I picked this book up to read , I do have to say that it's a
very solid and well-written introduction to the life and works of composer Florence Price.And the author seemed to do her research her, but for some unknown reason she just didn't bring her to life, and the book at times made me want to put it down. Maybe it was the author's writing style or just something about the story but it just felt like I was reading something for class , over all it was still a good introduction to a musical artist and her life .With that said I want to thank Netgalley for letting me read and review it .
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This is a thoroughly researched and complex piece covering the life, trials and achievements of Florence B. Price. 

The author provides extensive context to Price’s life, with attention paid to factors relating to her gender, race, socio-economic position in society and how her ambitions and achievements might be viewed in light of all of these. 

The depth of detail and breadth of subject makes this much more than a biography of an individual; perhaps it would be more fitting to consider it a piece of social and musical research. 

Dr Brown’s dedication to her subject is unquestionable, but I found at times Price’s life was swallowed up by the detailed description of the events of the times and other friends, supporters and colleagues. While it is valuable to understand the influence Price had upon the development of this genre of music (and beyond, including the links with Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and The Heart of a Woman), the inclusion of so many others in her story makes for a complicated read. 

That said, her many achievements stand out from the commentary of the book and her legacy clearly demonstrates the influence that she had on musical and political culture. It was a pleasure to read how one woman could achieve so much, while being so modest of her own achievements. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review this E-ARC. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are my own.
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This is a very solid and well-written introduction to the life and works of composer Florence Price. Extensively researched over the course of Rae Linda Brown's career, The Heart of a Woman (despite the sentimental and cloying title) is primarily a biography of Price with a bit of music analysis. Non-musicians can easily skip over the short, more technical sections, and still gain an understanding of Price's music and the context in which it was written. While I find there to be a little too much supposition without evidence in the book for my comfort and wish there had been more and deeper analysis, the book serves its purpose as a first stop in getting to know Price and her works. A lot of research has been published--and many excellent recordings issued--on and about Price's work in the last ten years, but Brown's contribution to the understanding of African American composers in the twentieth century cannot be overstated.
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A very well written book about a lady I didn’t know about.  What a wonderful story and I thankful to have had the opportunity to read it. If you love music or even if you don’t this is a book I would highly recommend. 
I received an advanced copy of this book by netgalley and the publisher.  This is my honest opinion. 
So good!!
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This book was received as an ARC from University of Illinois Press in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

Before reading this book I was not familiar with Florence B. Price and the legacy she left with music composition. Rae Linda Brown does a phenomenal job including as much information possible on her childhood, upbringing, education, struggles and of course her work. I am glad she included some music examples that we were able to play and as soon as we hit the first note, we immediately recognized the songs. It is also inspirational not just for Black History but for Women empowerment to see if you put your mind to something just as Florence did, you can accomplish anything despite your race and gender. Even though the story was compelling and inspirational, a lot of our readers may not be familiar with Florence B. Price but I know if we feature it in a display, readers will be curious and hopefully like it.

We will consider adding this title to our Biography collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
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This is an interesting and well written book about a Black Composer who was a well known person in only certain circles of the music world.

I would recommend this book to music lovers and I am sure that they will be interested to read the story.

I just reviewed The Heart of a Woman by Rae Linda Brown. #TheHeartofaWoman #NetGalley
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This fascinating biography offers a look at the life and work of the very talented and prolific Florence B. Price. I found this book to be well-written and I enjoyed it very much.

Thank you to NetGalley and to the publisher for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review.
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