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Alle’s book reviews.

I’m returning to reviewing books! More info on that soon enough. Here are five of my past favorites. (Of course Lenard Nimoy makes an appearance.)

“Damn you, Alle C. Hall. Damn you!”

Famous People

Mr. Spock emphatically did not like my review of his coffee-table book of photography, Shekhina (Hebrew for “the feminine aspect of God”).

What Would Madonna Do? Tragically, Magde had no comment on my review of an anthology ABOUT her.

Literary Fiction

“The world was full of precious garbage.”

Wall-E meets Gravity’s Rainbow as Ryan Boudinot births the next generation of sci-fi fantasy in Blueprints of the Afterlife. It runs a gorgeous gamut: complex, blunt, evocative, grimy, and disgusting; full of pain, of hope, of pure bliss.

Poetry of the Fun

I seek the funky/ the impudent, the Tokyo/ nightlife of haiku.

Hopes flung like whole fish!/This splendid idea does/not a great book make.

A good book, however, yes.

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Leonard Nimoy did not like what I wrote about his book.

“Damn you, Alle C. Hall. Damn you!”

In Novmber of 2002, I interviewed Leonard Nimoy for his book, Shekina.

How I Got That Story

Book Review Rule #1: Keep your ears open. Always.

I was working in a Jewish bookstore when a massive controversy 86’d Leonard Nimoy’s big speaking event. Such a scandal!

Rule #2: Know who’d want to publish that story.

I was on the phone to The Stranger like a hobo on a ham sandwich. Looking back, I should have tried The New York TImes first. The story went international, ultimately to be parodied on Saturday Night Live. I knew a freelancer at The Times who covered Jewish-y/city-y stuff. However, I had never written for The Times, and I had, regularly, for The Stranger. Bird in the hand vs. bigger publication? A question we will address at the upcoming workshop.

Rule #3: Know your subject.

I had years of experience with the concept of the Shekina. I knew its importance to the various slices of Jewish culture, and I knew what it meant to me.

Rule #4: Be prepared to be inspired.

I call this the “Who knew?” principle. Jews usually define Shekina as the female essence of God. During my research, however, I learned that Shekina translates literally from Hebrew as “Divine Presence.”  The Shekina of Jews was given its female essence by ancient Kabbalists (who pre-dated Madonna by centuries.)

None of the above factored into the published piece, or even into my pitch. So what? I loved learning it. It was fun talking to Leonard Nimoy, too, if you go for that sort of thing.

Rule #5: Hit your deadline and your word count.

You can ask Josie Davis over at PLOP! how I butchered Rule #5 in my recent piece on Madonna. Fortunately for me, she still wants me to review for her.

Rule #6: Write the review that the book deserves, even if it is a negative review; even if it’s about Leonard Nimoy.

Read my final piece, and see if you can tell which part Nimoy objected to. My criticisms were well-supported and the piece well-balanced. I didn’t intend to take pot-shots, but I wasn’t afraid to do my job: critique.

Rule #7: Publicize your publication.

My upcoming workshop at Richard Hugo House will cover this essential area in depth. I might slap up a post about it, if comments demonstrate the interest. HINT HINT.

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Best-selling author gives thumbs’-up to Alle’s “Madonna” review

Really fun to read!

So writes Laura Fraser, whose latest travel memoir, All Over the Map, is the sequel to her 2001 New York Times bestseller, An Italian Affair.

Thanks, Laura!

(I interviewed Laura for How I Got That Story.)

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Madonna is dangerous for girls.

 

Material Girl

Continuing from my review of “Madonna & Me” in PLOP! Review:

The 2007 report by the American Psychological Association about the sexualization of young girls by the media (discussed in my review) states that the culture of pink and princess marketed directly to girls and its “emphasis on beauty and play-sexiness can increase girls’ susceptibility to depression, eating disorders, distorted body image, and risky sexual behavior.”

Know which other subsection of girls exhibit the same susceptibility? Survivors of child sex abuse.

When children are imbued with adult sexuality, it is often imposed upon them rather than chosen by them.

The above is from the section of the APA report, yet reads like it was taken from a book I once gave the man I eventually married. That book was a manual for the parents and partners of sex abuse survivors.

As did the book I gave my now-husband, the APA report outlines the components of sexualization that distinguish it from healthy sexuality. With extraordinary similarity to the book, the APA report states:

Sexualization occurs when:

  • a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion  of other characteristics;
  • a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
  • a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
  • sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.

All four conditions need not be present; any one is an indication of sexualization.

WWMD pencils …

Deliberately marketed infatuations with Disney princesses lead girls to equally marketed infatuations with Disney Channel’s “tween” stars such as Britney Spears, Lyndsay Lohan, and Miley Cirus. Beyond teaching girls to pine for Prince Charming, beyond teen pregnancy, beyond convincing kids that fame and excess are their birthright, beyond just being a really bad look, fluffy pinks lead to a hardened sexuality projected by children who have yet to feel their own sexual impulses.

… and bracelet.

Lyndsay’s mom, Dinah Lohan; Miley’s dad, Billy Ray Cyrus; they exploit their daughters’ sexuality. The clinical term is emotional sexual abuse.

Does this mean that when regular ol’ non-famous parents establish environments where girls are encouraged to turn otherwise healthy sexual exploration into a public act, that they are committing emotional sexual abuse?

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Madonna teaser!

On Monday, PLOP! Review will publish my review of a new anthology, Madonna & Me: Women Writers On The Queen of Pop. Behold, a teaser:

Jan, 2011: on “Toddlers & Tiaras”, a 2-year-old literally stripped out of a white robe, revealing the above, then danced to “Material Girl.” She won.


For more than a decade, psychologists, parents, and child advocacy organizations such as Common Sense Media have expressed alarm over the hyper-sexualization of young women in the media for the explicit purpose of making money. Writers such as Lyn Mikel Brown (Packaging Girlhood) and Diane E. Levin (Too Sexy Too Soon) have made it part of conventional parenting wisdom that advertisers target children.

In her 2001 book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein was the first to connect the dots between a little girl’s devotion to all things princess-like and the emotional jeopardy of a sexual attitude developed too soon. A 2007 report by the American Psychological Association went on to demonstrate the jeopardy posed to girls’ happiness, self-esteem, sexual health, and academic performance as they learn to project a hardened sexuality before experiencing any sexual feelings of their own.

You’ll never guess the rock star to whom Orenstein traces the trend.

Laura Barcella, the editor of Madonna & Me, counts herself a proud, Madonna-in-her-living-room fan since age six. It comes as no surprise that many of her contributors also write about imitating Madonna’s sexual acting out as six-year-olds. While no one can specify what is too soon to be sexy, I don’t need an APA report to know that six years old is too soon.

It floors me that Madonna & Me does not address the obvious question posed by Madonna’s popularity and power: is Madonna good for girls?

(Continued in my piece on PLOP! In the meanwhile: if you can stomach it, you can watch the 2-year-old’s Madonna routine here.)