Women Writers Reading Challenge #40: Marilyn by Gloria Steinem


This lovely coffee table book was created about 25 years after Marilyn Monroe’s death, which means that it has the benefit of many other biographies coming before it (more perspective). Originally conceived by Marilyn with photographer George Barris, the project was supposed to feature his pictures and her text to “set the record straight.”

Her death, just weeks after these photos were taken, meant that the project was buried. Gloria Steinem, the well known feminist activist, only met Marilyn once, but her biographic essays have an extraordinary amount of sensitivity, and she paints a portrait of the icon as vulnerable and utterly human.

One particularly interesting part of the text comes from Steinem’s discussion of Marilyn Monroe as a unique phenomenon–what other movie star has lasted so long in our psyches? She is still more well known than many of our current stars, and you only have to look at youtube makeup tutorials to see how she has endured. Steinem explores reasons for this as well as providing context for Marilyn’s troubled life.

If you’re interested in Marilyn Monroe or about old Hollywood in general, I would definitely recommend this book. I had no idea how powerful it would be to see the last picture taken of her before her death, but I found it incredibly moving.

Women Writers Reading Challenge #18: Streisand: A Biography by Anne Edwards


I’m a huge fan of biographies of old stars and personalities, especially women: Marilyn Monroe, Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn. I don’t know if Barbra Streisand qualifies as an old star, as her first Hollywood musical was made at the end of the musical heyday, but she has always fascinated me, and I was glad when Mom and I found this biography about her at an estate sale.

I didn’t know very much about Streisand before reading this book, so I learned quite a bit about her. Anne Edwards writes very well. Her book is engaging and moves quickly, something that can’t usually be said for biographies.

Since Streisand is still alive and continuing her career (and she certainly was when the book was published in the late 90s), it doesn’t have the same perspective other biographies have. It can’t discuss the entire arc of her career or her legacy–not that I want Streisand to go anywhere–it’s just different from many biographies I’ve read. I’ve also discovered, this again is no reflection on the book, that I am not all that interested in recent history. Past the 1960s I have to work really hard to stay engaged in what I’m reading. I really try to stick with it though because every era has a story to tell, and I’m glad I stuck with this book because Streisand becomes even more interesting as she asserts more control over the material as producer and director. If you like Streisand and want to learn more about her career, you won’t be disappointed by this book.

2015 Women Writers Reading Challenge–Book #7: If You Ask Me by Betty White

IMG_1954_2I thought it was time to talk about (and therefore read) some nonfiction. I’ve got them piling up on my shelf because I always promise myself I’m only going to take x amount of books out at the library at one time, and I always exceed that by a multiple of at least three. I currently have 15 library books on the shelf, and I probably won’t get through them all, but that’s not going to stop me from getting more (because reading for me is basically working and going to the library is basically reading).

Anyway back to Betty. I haven’t seen much of Betty White’s early work (Golden Girls and The Mary Tyler Moore Show). I’m much more familiar with her character work in films like The Proposal and Bringing Down the House. So it was really interesting for me to read her newest memoir, which deals with her newer work. This is the age I always picture her–though now I know I’m going to have to go watch her earlier work because I love her even more now then when I started.

Since this book is her sixth, it’s less an autobiography and more of a collection of thoughts about various subjects including her acting, writing, and aging. They’re grouped into categories, and the sections are very short, most being only two to three pages. Interspersed are dozens of pictures, which show you a very happy life. You can tell she does the things she loves to do.

Her writing is very down to earth. It reads somewhere between a journal entry and a conversation with a close friend. She is frank, grateful for her experiences, humble, funny, and lives life with zest. My favorite quote from the book talks about following your passions: “If you live without passion, you can go through life without leaving any footprints.” I thought this was such a beautiful way of putting this idea. Beautiful, and yet simple.

I think this work is quite lovely. I love the way she references advice from her parents and how she describes aging. I really enjoyed this book, but if you’re interested in reading more about Betty’s earlier appearances, I’d suggest reading one of her earlier works as this book is really focused on her more current roles and appearances.

Do you like memoirs? What kind of experiences are you most interested in (film and entertainment, politics, food, science, etc.)? Personally, I love film memoirs and biographies, but I’ll read anything with good writing and an interesting perspective.