Soniah Kamal

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'Islam is not Pakistan's religion; Marriage is'

Friday, August 31, 2012

Caroline Leavitt and I Hate Madonna and Madonna and Me

Leading up to my 'Madonna and Me' talk at the Decatur Book Festival, I will be interviewing my fellow contributors.Today it's novelist Caroline Leavitt who says: the truth is I loathe Madonna! Really! I just happened to have a good Madonna story for the book. Caroline's essay 'My Movie and Madonna' is the about her book getting made into a Madonna movie.  My favorite bit from Caroline's essay: 'When Madonna was struggling she had been rejected by some record company executive. But instead of caving or feeling humiliated, she walked back into the office, ignoring the receptionist who tried to stop her, and she said to the executive, 'someday, you're going to with you had said yes to me''

And here's Caroline herself.

Favorite Madonna song and why?
I really hate all Madonna's music and consider it prefab and soulless. I'd rather listen to Elvis Costello.

Favorite video and look?   
Don't like any of her videos or any of her looks.
 
Madonna with Nickie Minaj and MIA: Ultra Diva or Desperate?
Desperate.

Can you tell us a little about your writing and revision process for 'My Pocket Madonna'?
It was an easy essay to write because all of it took place in three days and during the whole time I didn't know whether I was blessed or cursed that Madonna was showing interest in making a film of my book. Of course I knew if she did, there would be LOTS of publicity, but on the other hand, I wasn't sure I was going to like what she would do with my book since I had not liked her other films, and I didn't really like her music. But it was an opportunity and I couldn't say no. I tend to rewrite a LOT, so this one also was rewritten about six times.

What are you working on now?
I have a new novel, Is It Tomorrow, coming out from Algonquin Books in May 2013, and I'm currently writing another novel, tentatively called She's Not There.

Caroline's Bio:
Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You, which was also on the Best Books of 2011 Lists from the San Francisco Chronicle, The Providence Journal, Bookmarks Magazine and Kirkus Reviews. It was also a San Francisco Chronicle Lit Pick and a Costco's Pennie's Pick. Her tenth novel, Is It Tomorrow will be published in May 2013 from Algonquin Books. She lives near New York City with her husband and son.

Thanks Caroline!  That was certainly different!

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Tomorrow Q & A with Yours Truly!

Read Q & A with Rebecca Traister
Read Q & A with Erin Bradley
Read Q & A with Jen Hazen
Read Q & A with Sarah Sweeney
Read Q & A with Joshunda Victoria Sanders
Read Q & A with editor of the anthology Laura Barcella
Read Q & A with Wendy Tokunaga  


Sept 1, 2012. Decatur Book Festival. Local Prose Stage. 3: 15.
Soniah Kamal will be talking about growing up Muslim with Madonna. She will also read from her essay 'Through the Wilderness'. Please join her.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rebecca Traister and True Blue and Madonna and Me

Leading up to my 'Madonna and Me' talk at the Decatur Book Festival, I will be interviewing my fellow contributors. Today it's Rebecca Traister. Rebecca's essay 'Touched for the very First Time' explores if it is ever 'too late' to watch an icon live in concert. My favorite bit from Rebecca's essay 'I was nine when I watched a ratty-looking woman pleasure herself on a Venetian gondola while a panting lion looked on in the 'Like a Virgin' video and my father, glancing at the television, asked, "Who is that?" I am sure that my father, who has barely glanced at a television since, had no memory of this. But I remember. Because while I didn't understand the first thing about who she was or what she was doing to that poor lion, I knew she was fascianting. And because my mother--who also never glances at the television and had never been able to remember anybody's name, including mine-- stunned us all by informing him, "That's Madonna."
And another but I just have to quote: "The trouble is she's (Madonna) has made her own job so much harder. Whether she herself trained us not to flinch in the face of manipulated sexual and religious iconography or whether she has simply ridden the larger cultural shock wave past its crest, I'm not sure what her future as a provocateur could possibly hold.'

And here's Rebecca herself.

Favorite Madonna song and why?
True Blue/Jimmy Jimmy/La Isla Bonita, because I have such vivid and specific memories of a beach vacation with my best friends that I took the summer that album was out.

Favorite video and look?   
Two -- Material Girl because it was when I fell for her and it was so stylized and fun, and then Live To Tell because it was her first radical departure in look and she surprised me and also I loved the song.

Madonna with Nickie Minaj and MIA: Ultra Diva or Desperate? 
I think it's neither. Performers, especially ambitious performers like Madonna, want and need to stay relevant. and it's hard as a popular artist you get older and further away from youth, both your own and that of the people keeping culture relevant. I think it's fine that she's trying keep her career supple, even if she's also destined, on some level to not have the power she had as ayounger artist.
 
Can you tell us a little about your writing and revision process for 'A Borderline History of My Relationship with Madonna'? 
I wrote the piece very quickly for Salon, after having been to my first Madonna concert. I don't remember much about the process.

What are you working on now? 
I'm writing a book about single women that'll be published by Simon & Schuster in late 2013 or early 2014. 

Rebecca's Bio:
Rebecca Traister is the author of Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women, a New York Times Notable Book of 2010 and the winner of the Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize. A feminist journalist with Salon.com for the past nine years, Traister has also written about women in politics and media for The New York Times Magazine, Elle, The Nation, The New York Observer and The Washington Post. She lives in Brooklyn and is at work on a book about single women changing culture and politics, due from Simon & Schuster in 2014. 

Thanks Rebecca!

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Tomorrow Q & A with Caroline Leavitt

Read Q & A with  Jen Hazen
Read Q & A with Maria Raha
Read Q & A with Sarah Sweeney
Read Q & A with Joshunda Victoria Sanders
Read Q &  A with editor of the anthology Laura Barcella
Read Q &  A with Wendy Tokunaga  


Sept 1, 2012. Decatur Book Festival. Local Prose Stage. 3: 15.
Soniah Kamal will be talking about growing up Muslim with Madonna. She will also read from her essay 'Through the Wilderness'. Please join her.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Erin Bradley and Into the Groove and Madonna and Me.

photo by brian inatsuka
 Leading up to my 'Madonna and Me' talk at the Decatur Book Festival, I will be interviewing my fellow contributors.Today it's Erin Bradley. Erin's journal style essay 'A Borderline History of My Relationship with Madonna' melds the important events in Madonna's life with Erin's life. My favorite bit from Erin's funny essay: 'Spring 1987. Madonna's Spanish-inspired single 'La Isla Bonita' and its accompanying video had renewed my interest in Latin men, which lay dormant since CHips was cancelled and I had to abruptly end it with Eric Estrada. Knowing zero about race and ethnicity, I do the samba in from of the mirror and serenade my (what i thought were) "Hispanic" lovers: Ralph Macchio (Italian), Henry Winkler (Jewish), and Scott Baio (Asshole)'.

And here's Erin herself.

Favorite Madonna song and why?
Definitely "Into the Groove." The first time I heard it was when my parents took me to see Desperately Seeking Susan. Madonna was such a badass. I decided then and there that I wanted to be Italian and move to New York City. One out of two ain't bad, I suppose.

Favorite video and look?   
"Burning Up" is my favorite video. There's no subtlety, no coquettishness, no "I'm just an ingenue unaware of my sexuality" like a lot of the representations of women that seem to get the most favor now. She's like "Yeah, I'm hot for you. What are you gonna do about it?" Madonna is the anti-The Rules girl. Favorite look? Geez, that's hard. I'll go with snippets of looks: the floppy hat she wore in the 'Borderline' video, the lace book shirt from the 'Vogue' video, that Heidi dirndl skirt she wore in the her Ray of Light days. Not a huge fan of her cone bra Gaultier look, oddly enough, though I respect it and know it's iconic.

Madonna with Nickie Minaj and MIA: Ultra Diva or Desperate?
Ultra Diva. How could a woman with that much money and power ever be desperate? I hate that word. It's rarely used with men. Keith Richards could do a Superbowl show with Justin Bieber and no one would bat an eye. Madonna does one with a few younger stars and all of a sudden she's desperate. Why? Because she's a musician who wants to keep her name out there and continue doing what she loves? It's like people want women to hide in a closet once they get older than Taylor Swift. When Madge is on Hollywood Squares alongside Gallagher and Ray Romano, then we'll talk.

Can you tell us a little about your writing and revision process for 'A Borderline History of My Relationship with Madonna'? 
I went with a timeline because I wanted to do something fun and that wasn't straight prose. I vetted it with Laura first because I knew it was breaking the submission format. I didn't want to spin my wheels (or give her something she wasn't happy with) and she said it was cool. I revised by running it by my professional editing team, i.e. my sister and my husband, and then Laura. All in all, we probably went through 3 rounds. Not too bad. This, like almost everything I write, is based on my life. I find that makes writing a lot more fun. For me, anyway. Some people are private. I'm into emotional burlesque. 

What are you working on now? 
Actual work. As in, my day job - advertising. I plan on starting another book, though. A memoir. They're hard to pitch to editors but I wouldn't be a good Madonna fan if I took no for an answer.

Erin's Bio:
Erin Bradley is a writer and journalist living and working in New York City. She's written for and appeared in publications including The Daily Beast, Nerve, Playboy, The Morning News, and College Humor. Her book, Every Rose Has It's Thorn: A Rock 'n' Roll Guide to Guys is available on Amazon.com

Buy Madonna and Me


Tomorrow Q & A with Rebecca Traister

Read Q & A with  Jen Hazen
Read Q & A with Maria Raha
Read Q & A with Sarah Sweeney
Read Q & A with Joshunda Victoria Sanders
Read Q & A with editor of the anthology Laura Barcella
Read Q & A with Wendy Tokunaga  


Sept 1, 2012. Decatur Book Festival. Local Prose Stage. 3: 15.
Soniah Kamal will be talking about growing up Muslim with Madonna. She will also read from her essay 'Through the Wilderness'. Please join her.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Jen Hazen and What It Feels Like for a Girl and Madonna and Me

photo by derek van gieson
Leading up to my 'Madonna and Me' talk at the Decatur Book Festival, I will be interviewing my fellow contributors.Today it's Jen Hazen. Jen's essay 'Ciccone Youth' talks about her coming to identify with Madonna even as Jen grows up in an all male household where she is exposed to alternative music. My favorite bit from Jen's  essay: 'When she (Mom) told Dad to get out of the house because she wanted a divorce, he refused to give her one, but he did move out. Mom had no idea that he would cut her off financially during their separation-- no assistance with the mortgage, the bills, the expenses of raising two kids. How would she raise us on her meager secretary's salary? Mom called her parents in California to ask if she could move us to the West Coast, but they told her to 'stick our her marriage'. She didn't last a week after that. She committed suicide instead......I thought of how she felt so trapped that death seemed like the only way out. I didn't know what they felt like. But I did know how it felt to be loved by her. The eight years that I shared with her taught me that I can do whatever I want. I can be whomever I want. Just like Madonna. Who lost her mom, too, and she turned out okay, right?' 

And here's Jen herself.

Favorite Madonna song and why?

I love so many of them, but “What It Feels Like for a Girl” is definitely my favorite song. My mom died when I was very young and my father and brother raised me. Because of this, I really wasn’t aware of gender differences—how I was “supposed to be” as a girl. But as I got older, it became so obvious that it wasn’t proper to be outspoken, wasn’t proper to take credit for my accomplishments, wasn’t proper to strive beyond marriage and kids. That was so bizarre to me. Anyway, this song is the most blatant affirmation of my supposedly bad attitude—doing what’s right for me and not apologizing for it.

Favorite video and look?
Once again, I have to say “What it Feels Like for a Girl.” First, Madonna looks hot as hell wearing a jumpsuit and stilettos with that blond bob and tattoos. She’s such a badass and so unapologetically femme. Love that. Second, the video is brilliant for so many reasons—a kamikaze crime spree, the Camaro, the acknowledgment of an elderly woman (for once) and breaking her out of the nursing home! Of course, there’s the ending, which is so Thelma & Louise.
Madonna with Nickie Minaj and MIA: Ultra Diva or Desperate?
I have to say neither. As a woman, Madonna paved a road for those two that previously consisted of a million land mines. Feminism, whether you choose to call it that or not, has made some strides since the 1980s and Madonna personifies that I think. Of course, there is always more room for progress. Really, there is. Let’s keep that going.


 Can you tell us a little about your writing and revision process for 'Ciccone Youth'?
When I wrote the piece, I lived in Chicago with my (then) husband Dave, a graphic designer. He had this slight obsession with looking at design books in bed at night. It was really comforting to me because, as a child, I used to sit in my parent’s bed with my mom at night when she read mystery novels. Anyway, I remember sitting next to him one night in bed and writing “Ciccone Youth” pretty quickly as he pored over some book about street art. For the first time in my life, I felt safe enough to write about my mom’s suicide without guilt, shame or embarrassment. Maybe I was finally at peace with it because he truly accepted me for who I was? I can’t be certain. But writing about it before then felt like such a huge risk. I’ve struggled with it my entire life. I think he taught me how to accept my feelings instead of playing tough all of the time. I owe him one for that.

What are you working on now?
I’m a writer & content manager for a design firm in NYC. I’ve also been doing a lot of art, design and fashion writing for Design Bureau magazine, as well as music writing for Vice and Bust. Otherwise, I’m enjoying New York, walking my two dachsies, or working out. Life is good.


Jen's Bio:

Jen Hazen is a NYC-based writer/editor who loves bikes, black licorice and all things Danish. Previously the music editor for BUST, her work has appeared in Vice, Design Bureau, Time Out Chicago, JANE Magazine, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicagoist and Thought Catalog, among others. Other credits include a piece in Madonna & Me, as well as the St. Martins book, Cassette From My Ex. Jen has also been quoted in the books Girl Power: The '90s Revolution in Music, and How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time.

Thanks Jen!

Buy Madonna and Me

Tomorrow Q & A with Erin Bradley

Read Q & A with Maria Raha
Read Q & A with Sarah Sweeney
Read Q & A with Joshunda Victoria Sanders
Read Q & A with editor of the anthology Laura Barcella
Read Q & A with Wendy Tokunaga  


Sept 1, 2012. Decatur Book Festival. Local Prose Stage. 3: 15.
Soniah Kamal will be talking about growing up Muslim with Madonna. She will also read from her essay 'Through the Wilderness'. Please join her.