Book Review: Madonna and Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop


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

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.

Read more: The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee

Elegies for the Brokenhearted: A Novel

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.

Read more: Elegies for the Brokenhearted: A Novel

Bitch Is the New Black: A Memoir

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.

Read more: Bitch Is the New Black: A Memoir

The Last Living Slut: Born in Iran, Bred Backstage

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.

Read more: The Last Living Slut: Born in Iran, Bred Backstage



Upcoming Events

Show Full Calendar

Shop The BUSTShop