Janis Joplin
readers guide
Buy this book:

Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing
Amulet Books, October 1, 2010
ISBN 978-0810983496
a biography for young adults

Forty years after her death, Janis Joplin remains among the most compelling and influential figures in rock-and-roll history. Her story—told here with depth and sensitivity by author Ann Angel—is one of a girl who struggled against rules and limitations, yet worked diligently to improve as a singer. It’s the story of an outrageous rebel who wanted to be loved, and of a wild woman who wrote long, loving letters to her mom. And finally, it’s the story of one of the most iconic female musicians in American history, who died at twenty-seven.

  Janis Joplin in Rolling Stone

Janis Joplin includes more than sixty photographs, and an assortment of anecdotes from Janis’s friends and band mates. This thoroughly researched and well-illustrated biography is a must-have for all young artists, music lovers, and pop-culture enthusiasts.

Here are three websites with more info about Janis Joplin:
Big Brother and the Holding Company, JanisJoplin.net, and the Official Janis Joplin website.

Listen to my interview with School Library Journal.

Awards and Honors:

Amelia Bloomer Project (nominee)
Booklist's Top Biographies for 2011
CCBC Choices 2011
Council for Wisconsin Writers Nonfiction Book Award
Library Media Connection Editors Choice
SCBWI Crystal Kite Award 2011
YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults


“In an introduction to this long-overdue portrait of “the first queen of rock,” Sam Andrew, Janis Joplin’s former bandmate and best friend, said, “There was electricity in the air when Janis was around.... She was vulnerable, powerful, super wide open, talented, and interesting in a kind of terrifying way.” Building from Andrew’s full-hearted and contradictory description, Angel presents a nuanced account of the groundbreaking musician’s life, beginning with her challenging adolescence in Port Arthur, Texas. After giving up on fitting in, she sang along to the blues on long drives with equally rebellious teen friends and learned that she had a powerful voice. Tracking back to Joplin’s childhood, Angel then moves on to the singer’s early years of studying and music-making, before she finally grabbed attention with Andrews’ band Big Brother and the Holding Company. Angel writes with both a reporter’s forthright, detached tone and a fan’s full-hearted enthusiasm, and she includes numerous revealing quotes from friends and family members, all sourced in the appended notes and bibliography. Without sensationalizing, she also discusses Joplin’s sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll lifestyle, which ended with the singer’s alcohol-and-heroin induced death at the age of 27. A groovy page design, patterned in shades of purple and acid green; a lively annotated time line; and unforgettable archival images will pull even more attention to this captivating view of a groundbreaking musician rarely spotlighted in books for youth.”

“It was 40 years ago this October that the rock singer died from an overdose of alcohol and drugs at the age of 27. From interviews with her friends and letters that Joplin wrote home, Angel pieces together her subject’s short life, contrasting her conservative upbringing in a small Texas town with the wild 1960s, vividly portrayed both in descriptions and in excellent-quality, full-color and black-and-white photos on almost every page. Joplin’s husky, passionate singing voice was appreciated by other musicians and by her audiences. She loved to sing the blues with the misery and pain that dominated the lyrics. Bessie Smith and Odetta were her heroines. The author points out that despite the fame and fortune that she achieved, Joplin was basically insecure and in need of acceptance. This book is well researched with more than 100 notes referring to specific quotes from friends, family, and magazines. Teens will be intrigued by the life of this cult figure. Her memory has been kept alive by her recordings and an off-Broadway show, Love, Janis, based on letters she wrote to family and friends during her career, which continues to be staged throughout the country.”

“If you were me, ‘biography of Janis Joplin’ would be all you need to know to pick up this book. Angel tells about Joplin’s life, from her childhood and teenage years in the 1950s in Port Arthur, Texas, to the early 1960s as she began singing, leaving Texas for California and New York, becoming the singer for Big Brother & the Holding Company in 1967. Three short years later, Joplin was dead from an overdose, leaving behind such a huge body of songs that I was surprised at just how short her professional singing career was.

“In this biography aimed at high schoolers, Angel provides a matter of fact look at Joplin’s life, balancing both aspects of Joplin’s personality: the ‘wild, uninhibited performer and the sweet, solicitous daughter and sister.’ Dick Cavett, television host who interviewed Joplin on more than one occasion, said ‘I think there were two Janises. There was the high school girl who desperately wanted acceptance and that character she created which was the tough-talking, tough-drugging, drinking rock and roll star.’ Along the way, Angel shows both sides of Joplin’s character as well as her world and times, putting her life and music into historical perspective. Angel never condemns Joplin nor does she make excuses for her.

“Angel manages to convey in print (with some amazing photographs) the sound of Joplin’s voice, the depth of her live performances. Angel’s webpage links to Janis Joplin. Net, which contains videos of Joplin’s performances.

“I was overwhelmed with just how much Joplin accomplished professionally in three years, and left thinking how unfair her death was, and impressed with just how much Angel told in only 106 pages. It’s the perfect amount of pages, but in case anyone wants more, Angel provides a bibliography.

“The design of this book is stunning. There are the photographs and the album art, and then there are the colorful borders inspired by the 1960s art shown in those albums. What I also liked—since I work in a library that has Braille and audiobooks—is that this book, while full of terrific images, has text that stands alone for those non-visual readers.

“Oh, I just have to say it one more time. What a shame that Joplin died so young; how unfair, because many others who did what she did were lucky enough to survive the rock and roll lifestyle.”

Copyright © 2006 -, Ann Angel. All rights reserved.
Please request permission before using any text or images from this website.