Book Marks

Book recommendations courtesy of President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama and what books mean to him.

Book on civil rights hero Congressman John Lewis to be donated to needy schools.

In honor of tomorrow’s worldwide women’s march, here is a list of inspirational books about global women game changers.

Speaking of inspiring women, I find much inspiration in writer Mary Pipher. Here books are a must read.

Pulitzer-Prize winning fashion critic, Robin Givhan, on First Lady Michelle Obama’s fashion choices and sense of style.

Ten rules of writing opinion pieces according to Writer’s Digest.

This blog is a treasure trove of the best presidential biographies.

And let’s not forget the First Ladies.

One of my favorite presidential memoirs, Dreams From My Father.

Book Review: The Secret Currency of Love-The Unabashed Truth About Women, Money and Relationships edited by Hilary Black

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Even in tough economic times, women have a difficult time discussing money. Women will talk about their sex lives, tell you who they voted for in the last Presidential election and go on and on about their weight. But when it comes to money, women usually keep their mouths shut. However, Hilary Black has found women who are willing to write about money and what it means to them. She has published their stories in The Secret Currency of Love: The Unabashed Truth About Women, Money and Relationships.

The Secret Currency of Love covers not only how money plays a part in love relationships but also the relationships between parent and child, among friends and with near strangers. Joni Evans writes how a high-profile divorce from a very wealthy man didn’t only shake her personally, but how it also affected her professionally. Dani Shapiro’s mother uses her money to control Dani. Love could be bought, even if it was from your own flesh and blood. Sheri Holman deftly describes her relationship with a drug addict and homeless man and how her own ambition never quite rubbed off on him. Sometimes money wasn’t a part of a relationship, it was the relationship.

These stories, written by notable journalists and novelists, are extremely well-written and interesting. I found myself turning page after page, wanting to find out how their stories played out. However, I was also left wanting. Except for a handful, a majority of them live in New York City. They received excellent educations, many at Ivy League schools, usually paid their parents. Their parents often helped pay their way through even after these ladies reached maturity. The writers are pretty much working in careers they love; no low-paying McJobs for these broads. And if attached, their husbands are also flush with cash. For the most part, these writers aren’t living paycheck to paycheck. They aren’t waking up in the middle of the night, worrying about paying the rent and the bills. Their children are thriving and want for nothing.

Yet, a majority of these writers couldn’t be happy with that. I found myself thinking, “You have more than most of us. Quit whining!” Bliss Broyard kvetches about not being able to keep up with her wealthy friends. I wish for once she could have been grateful for what she does have and appreciate the nice things her friends do for her. A very smug Leslie Bennetts tells us that unlike the offspring of the rich parents at her children’s pricey private school, her own kids don’t get whatever they want. What Ms. Bennetts doesn’t seem to realize is the friendships her children have cultivated with families she likes to disparage have given her son and daughter opportunities we can only dream of. Given a chance to spend the summer in France? I wouldn’t bitch.

Fortunately, some writers truly understand how money can really transform lives. A scholarship helped Veronica Chambers escape an abusive childhood, and now she donates money to help other students at her alma mater. After dealing with an abusive relationship, Kim Barnes understands how money can be a means of control and escape.

But sadly, stories like these are in short supply. I wish Ms. Black would realize women beyond her Rolodex of upper-middle class professionals do have interesting stories to tell about money. For instance, Jennifer Wolff Perrine has the means to adopt a child from a poor couple. But what about the woman giving up the child? Doesn’t she have a story to tell? What does this money mean to her and her family? Is it because she’s poor and uneducated that her story is deemed unworthy? I don’t think so. Waitresses from the Midwest have their stories to tell. So do mothers making the precarious leap from welfare to work. And a woman who used to donate to the local food bank but now gets donations from the local food bank might have an interesting story to tell. Sadly, The Serect Currency of Love doesn’t contain these type of stories. I wish Ms. Black and her coterie would look beyond their own privilege to find another unabashed truth about women, money and relationships even if they don’t wear Manolo Blahniks.

Book Marks

bookmarks obamaWhen you are adamant about paying a paltry pittance for books, you get the likes of Milo Yiannopoulos.

To cleanse the palate here is a great article on Roxane “Bad Feminist” Gay and her collection of short stories Difficult Women.

Did Monica Crowley of Team Trump plagiarize parts of her book?

Harry Potter-related restaurant opens in Brooklyn

Orlando, Florida librarians become rebels with a cause when they try to save tossed books.

Why indie books stores are thriving in the day of cyber shopping and big box book stores.

Books you just might end up reading in 2017.

Boy, do I need this advice – how to be more organized and productive as a writer.

“Hidden Figures” book zooms to the top of USA TODAY’S Best-Seller list.

United Way in Chambersburg, PA is hosting a food and book drive!

 

Book of Love: Meryl Streep

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I’ve been a fan of Meryl Streep since I was a young girl. And as a writer and a freelance journalist who has written about arts, culture and entertainment from all over the globe, I want to say her Golden Globe’s speech made me puff up with pride and gratitude. Here is  a transcript of Ms. Streep’s speech, h/t The New York Times:

Please sit down. Thank you. I love you all. You’ll have to forgive me. I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend. And I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year, so I have to read.

Thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press. Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said: You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.

But who are we, and what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island; Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids in Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Italy. And Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in London — no, in Ireland I do believe, and she’s here nominated for playing a girl in small-town Virginia.

Ryan Gosling, like all of the nicest people, is Canadian, and Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, and is here playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.

They gave me three seconds to say this, so: An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that. Breathtaking, compassionate work.

But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; there was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh, and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose. O.K., go on with it.

O.K., this brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call him on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in the Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, because we’re gonna need them going forward, and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.

One more thing: Once, when I was standing around on the set one day, whining about something — you know we were gonna work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, “Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is, and we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight.

As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once, take your broken heart, make it into art.

And here is Ms. Davis’s introduction for Ms. Streep:

She stares. That’s the first thing you notice about her. She tilts her head back with that sly suspicious smile, and she stares for a long time. And you think: Do I have something in my teeth? Or does she wanna kick my [expletive] — which is not gonna happen?

And then she’ll ask questions. “What’d you do last night, Viola?”

“Oh I cooked an apple pie.”

“Did you use Pippin apples?”

“Pippin apples, what the hell are Pippin apples? I used Granny Smith apples.”

“Oh. Did you make your own crust?”

“No, I used store-bought crust. That’s what I did.”

“Then you didn’t make an apple pie, Viola.”

“Well that’s because I spent all my time making my collard greens. I make the best collard greens. I use smoked-turkey chicken broth and my own special sauce.”

Silence. I shut her down.

“Well, they don’t taste right unless you use ham hocks. If you don’t use ham hocks it doesn’t taste the same. So how’s the family?”

And as she continues to stare you realize that she sees you. And like a high-powered scanning machine she’s recording you. She is an observer and a thief. She waits to share what she has stolen on that sacred place, which is the screen. She makes the most heroic characters vulnerable, the most known familiar, the most despised relatable. Dame Streep. Her artistry reminds us of the impact of what it means to be an artist, which is to make us feel less alone. I can only imagine where you go, Meryl, when you disappear into a character. I imagine that you’re in them, patiently waiting, using yourself as a conduit, encouraging them, coaxing them to release all their mess, expose, to live. You are a muse. Your impact encouraged me to stay in the line.

Dame Streep, I see you. I see you. And you know all those rainy days we spent on the set of “Doubt”? Every day my husband would call me at night and say, “Did you tell her how much she means to you?”

And I said, “No, I can’t say anything, Julius, I’m just nervous. All I do is stare at her all the time.”

He said, “Well, you need to say something. You’ve been waiting all your life to work with this woman. Say something.”

I said, “Julius, I’ll do it tomorrow.”

“O.K. you better do it tomorrow because when I get there I’m going to say something!”

I haven’t said anything. But I’m gonna say it now. You make me proud to be an artist. You make me feel that what I have in me, my body, my face, my age, is enough. You encapsulate that great Émile Zola quote that if you ask me as an artist what I came into this world to do, I, an artist, would say, I came to live out loud.

Retro Review: Every French Man Has One by Olivia de Havilland

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“In France it’s assumed that if you’re a woman you are sexy, and you don’t have to put a dress on to prove it, too.”

And it was that sentence from the chapter “The Look I Left Behind” from Olivia de Havilland’s collection of essays Every French Man Has One that utterly enchanted me and reminded me why I’m such a Francophile and a lover of classic Hollywood.

Most of you best remember the iconic Miss de Havilland for her role as Melanie Wilkes in the film classic Gone With the Wind. But she also starred in The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Snake Pit, and one of my favorites, The Heiress, for which she won a very much deserved Oscar for Best Actress.

Miss de Havilland is still with us at 100-years-old and makes her home in Paris, France. So I felt it was only befitting to read her memoir Every French Man Has One (published in 1962), which chronicles her early days in Paris with her French husband Pierre and her children Benjamin and Gisèle.

Like a lot of Americans de Havilland was both charmed and confused by the French culture, language, traffic, food, people and customs. But being a plucky sort, she chose to rise to each befuddling occasion with humor and an open mind.

Throughout Every French Man Has One de Havilland delights the reader with her elegant yet down to earth writing style. Yes, she is a movie star and quite privileged; most of us don’t associate with the high society and famous people, and most of us don’t have maids. But de Havilland’s musings on tackling learning a new language or learn a foreign custom (and often failing at the attempt) is quite amusing and easy to commiserate with. I remember my high school French lessons didn’t quite help when I got to go to Paris many moons ago. Needless to say, I ordered a lot of café au laits during my brief time in the City of Light.

There were other segments of Every French Man Has One that completely enchanted me like how American women and French women approach everything from fashion to cooking to rearing children.

Every French man fully exposes de Havilland’s honest self-awareness without slipping into narcissistic self-absorption that seems to have a grip on today’s celebrities (Lena Dunham, I’m looking in your direction).

Now for those of you who are looking for some sordid Hollywood gossip, well, you won’t find it in Every French Man Has One. de Havilland is a class act and a keeper of secrets, which is quite refreshing as her is her breezy and witty writing style.

Another thing I liked about Every French Man Has One was how each chapter can be read piecemeal; yes this book is a memoir but it is done in an essay style format. And every reader will find a chapter that is a true standout.

Now as for that elusive title, Every French man Has One. Is Olivia de Havilland referring to what your think she is referring to? You’ll just have to read the book to find out…