Review of Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor's Life

Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor’s Life
by Marilyn Nelson
Middle School, High School    Ottaviano/Little, Brown    160 pp.    g
1/22    978-0-316-29802-5    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-316-29822-3    $9.99

Despite her prominence during the Harlem Renaissance, sculptor Augusta Savage (1892–1962) remains largely unknown to younger generations. Through her accomplished verse, Nelson (My Seneca Village, rev. 11/15, and many others) introduces young-adult readers to Savage’s life and work. From an early age, Savage faced hardship because of her art, including physical abuse from her father, but she continued to sculpt. The book chronicles her path: teaching art; meeting other artists in Harlem; studying in Europe, after some setbacks; having her work displayed at the World’s Fair; opening the U.S.’s first Black-owned and -operated gallery. The poems create a picture not only of Savage’s life but also of the art she created, with several concrete poems taking on the shapes of her sculptures. The book also includes period photos of many of the sculptures that Savage created — particularly important because much of her work was lost or destroyed due to lack of funds to preserve or move it. An afterword by Tammi ­Lawson, curator at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, provides more context and biographical information. A wonderful addition to young people’s literature on African American artists.

From the January/February 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Nicholl Denice Montgomery

Nicholl Denice Montgomery is currently working on a PhD at Boston College in the curriculum and instruction department. Previously, she worked as an English teacher with Boston Public Schools.

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