Soniah Kamal

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

Monday, August 27, 2012

Maria Raha, Express Yourself 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 music journalist Maria Raha. Maria's thought provoking essay 'Borderline: Madonna's Rebel Stance' eloquently discusses Madonna's 'soft' subversiveness.  My favorite bit from Maria's essay: 'Unlike the other artists with whom she mingled downtown, she never addressed her generation in her music. Madonna only dipped her toe in substance when she sang about an unexpected teen pregnancy in 'Papa Don't Preach'-- and reinforced the status quo when she insisted on 'keeping the baby'. It wasn't a rebellion that challenged the conservative culture of the 1980s, but it was just enough rebellion to tiptoe between shock and marketability....In some ways, her hijack of vogueing was a contemporary version of the white washed way the music industry promoted rock 'n' roll as 'white' music, even though its roots were in black culture and blues.

And here's Maria herself.

Favorite Madonna song and why?
I like her whole first album, 'Madonna', beginning to end--it's nostalgic. The whole album, her look, and her presentation was exciting to me when I was young, and it still reminds me of how thrilled and liberated I felt when I first heard and saw her.

Favorite video and look?   
Again, the early stuff: probably Borderline. But I also love the aesthetics of "Express Yourself" and "Vogue."

Madonna with Nickie Minaj and MIA: Ultra Diva or Desperate?
Well, I was confused by the whole thing. At this point, I like M.I.A. a lot more than I like Madonna, so I was happy to see her get some mainstream attention--and I was especially happy to see the inclusion of a Sri Lankan woman during something as traditionally American (and white and male) as the Super Bowl halftime show. As for Madonna being "diva" or "desperate," I don't think either of those categories are appropriate. She's a good businesswoman who knows a lucrative opportunity when she sees it. 

 Can you tell us a little about your writing and revision process for 'Borderline: Madonna's Rebel Stance'?
 I've been formulating my opinions about Madonna since I was about 16 or so. Since she's remained a cultural force for much of my adult life, it was natural for me to have a pretty strong opinion about her. My writing was less process, and more journaling about, well, Madonna and me, and then going back and filling in the holes.

What are you working on now? 

I'm gearing up to begin working on a novel, but outside of work, I haven't been very productive lately.

Maria's Bio:
Maria Raha is the author of Cinderella's Big Score: Women of the Punk (2006) and Indie Underground and Hellions: Pop Culture's Rebel Women (2008), both published by Seal Press. She also has contributed to a number of anthologies and magazines, and is an editor at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Thanks Maria!

Buy Madonna and Me

Tomorrow 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.


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