When I’m asked how I came to illustrate Patricia Hruby Powell’s Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker (Chronicle Books 2014), my most direct answer is that my agent Steven Malk shared the manuscript with me, after being approached by editors at Chronicle. The more magical response would be that Josephine Baker’s life was an inspiration to me long before I read Powell’s text.
Forty years ago, when I was a young writer, and enjoying some success with my first novel, La Guerre, Yes Sir! (Éditions du jour, 1968), I was invited to write a story for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). I wanted to write about the moment that I felt, for the very first time, that I was my own person—not my mother’s son, not my father’s son—but me, petit Roch.