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Reviewed by Maria Elena Buszek

Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop

Edited by Laura Barcella

(Soft Skull)

If the way the Interwebz blew up the minute she hit the stage at the 2012 Super Bowl is any indication, Madonna has not lost her ability to provoke and fascinate—even as she approaches the end of her third decade as a pop icon. This fact is on abundant display in the new anthology Madonna and Me, edited by journalist (and BUST contributor) Laura Barcella.

The 40 contributing authors, artists, and activists range from Texas-born grandma Gloria Feldt to Pakistani-born satirist Soniah Kamal, and largely zero in on what Feldt calls Madonna’s willingness to speak sexual truth to power. Specifically, the “power” of patriarchy to control women’s sexuality, which Madonna has publicly defied in her sexually-charged music and performances, her AIDS activism, and her style of motherhood.

In fact, the theme of Madonna’s motherhood reoccurs throughout Madonna and Me, with all the conflicting messages that entails. Those conflicts are the most interesting parts of the book, which is no hagiography. Many contributors first look to Madonna as a (sexual, spiritual, professional) “mother,” only to grow frustrated or disappointed with, and ultimately apart from her over the years. Yet, they suggest, we still seek her out, almost despite ourselves, as a touchstone of ideal femininity. As the reliably snarky critic Cintra Wilson admits in her contribution: love her or loathe her, “after 25 years, Madonna is still at the forefront of our cultural consciousness, and that, as well as I can guess, is the point of Madonna: She always wins.”

The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee

Book Info

Book AuthorSarah Silverman

Sarah Silverman's memoir does all the things that shouldn't work: she's sparse on emotion, prolific with excruciating details, and even explains some of her jokes. Yet somehow, like her comedy, it's so wrong it's just right.

Bitch Is the New Black: A Memoir

Book Info

Book AuthorHelena Andrews

The title of this sardonic essay collection refers to the phrase coined by Tina Fey during a Saturday Night Live monologue defending Hillary Clinton. That Helena Andrews is black adds a spin to the catchphrase; it resonates with her sense of what it's like to be boxed into a stereotypical category.

Elegies for the Brokenhearted: A Novel

Book Info

Book AuthorChristie Hodgen

Mary Murphy grows up in a small town in the midst of an economic downturn as the daughter of a reluctant young mother who was impregnated by her alcoholic boyfriend on prom night.

The Last Living Slut: Born in Iran, Bred Backstage

Book Info

Book AuthorRoxana Shirazi

Born in Tehran on the cusp of the Iranian Revolution, Roxana Shirazi is raised in a traditional household, which starts to fall apart when her father abandons the family. At a young age, she begins to feel sexual urges that do not jibe with her mother’s reminders of a woman’s place within Muslim traditions.

Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter

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Book AuthorRandy Schmidt

I thought I could’ve saved Karen Carpenter’s life had we been friends. But after slogging through this biography, I can’t imagine being friends with the woman Randy Schmidt depicts.


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Book AuthorDame Darcy

“The juicer was a machine that gave an electric shock and with it came the clanging of the 13 brass bells attached to it.” So begins the reader’s journey into the dark, macabre, neo-Victorian world of Dame Darcy’s Meatcake comics.

A Night of Long Knives

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Book AuthorRebecca Cantrel

In this action-packed mystery novel capturing the terror of Nazi rule in 1930s Germany, journalist Hannah Vogel finds herself in dire straits, to say the least.

Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison

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Book AuthorPiper Kerman

Piper Kerman, a Smith-educated, self-described boho, WASPy ex-lesbian, got mixed up with the wrong crowd after college. Enthralled by the flashy lifestyle of her then-girlfriend, Kerman took transatlantic flights to deliver large sums of cash for an African drug lord. Her criminal career didn't last long, and she quickly turned her life around.

Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget

Book Info

Book AuthorAmy McCoy

The stated purpose of this cookbook is to show people how to cook good meals on a budget, but the title is misleading. Food blogger turned author Amy McCoy, head of the Rhode Island Slow Food Network, advises her readers to buy humanely raised meat and then exhorts them to "always be on the lookout for 99 cents/lb. chicken"-impossible; free-range chicken is never that cheap.

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