Flashback Friday: Bonnets At Dawn Podcast (2017 to Present)

Books have a way of bringing us together and creating conversations that will hopefully reveal our common humanity.

The literary podcast, Bonnets At Dawn, premiered in 2017. When the original episodes focused on the works, lives, and fandoms of Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen, later seasons expanded to other women writers from the 19th and 20th centuries who deserve equal time in the limelight.

Bonnets At Dawn is one of my favorite podcasts. I appreciate the intelligent conversations and the approach that is fan-based with an academic angle.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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RIP Tina Turner

The strongest of us have very often, been forced down to the deepest of depths before rising to the surface triumphantly.

Tina Turner passed away yesterday at the age of 83. If you were to look up the definition of a survivor in the dictionary, the image you may see is a picture of the late musician. Born into poverty, she shot to fame as the front woman of the most popular bands of the 1960s and 1970s.

But Turner’s life when the cameras were not rolling was not all sunshine and roses. Her late ex-husband, Ike Turner, abused his wife and tried to control her. She would finally break free in the late 1970s and would have a second career as a solo artist that is legendary in its own right.

On stage, she was a dynamo who outperformed younger artists who looked to her as an inspiration.

Though she was just one person, her struggles are a reminder that there is a light in the darkness, if you are willing to fight for that light.

RIP Tina Turner. May your spirit live on and encourage us all to fight for what we want.

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Glamour: Women, History, Feminism Book Review

There is a perception when it comes to women and fashion. We are nothing more than empty-headed clothes horses who love nothing more than spending our husband’s or father’s money.

Carol Dyhouse‘s 2010 book, Glamour: Women, History, Feminism explores the dynamic between women, fashion, and our changing roles in society during the 20th century. Basing the narrative on an assortment of sources, she explains how the various components of women’s clothing can be representative of our struggles for independence and personhood on our own terms.

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I enjoyed this book. I am not exactly one to follow the latest trends, I am more of a jeans and t-shirt kind of person. What I found interesting was the fact that as the decades wore on, the clothes became representative of the slow walk toward equality.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Glamour: Women, History, Feminism is available wherever books are sold.

The Feds Need to Step In and Help With the Migrant Crisis

America is a nation of immigrants. Even the earliest European settlers to this land can be seen in hindsight as immigrants.

Last week, after thousands of migrants overpowered the already overcrowded migrant welcome centers in New York City, Mayor Eric Adams started sending busses of single men to hotels in northern counties.

Predictably, the leadership in these counties were not pleased with the new arrivals that have forced upon them by city leaders.

Obviously, the big-picture solution would come via Congress and an overhaul of our immigration system. But until that happens, President Biden and the federal government have to step in. I don’t know if it is via funding, or finding where these people can work, or something else. Either way, leaving it for the states or local municipalities to handle is making the problem worse.

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Good Night, Oscar Play Review

Genius and madness (for lack of a better term) sometimes go hand in hand. As much as we love this person for their abilities, we are concerned for their health.

The new play, Good Night, Oscar opened recently in New York City.

In 1958, The Tonight Show has moved from New York City to Los Angeles. The show’s host, Jack Paar (Ben Rappaport) is eager to have his friend Oscar Levant (Sean Hayes in an award-worthy performance) on the show. Levant is known for his off-color quips as he is for his piano playing.

For the last few weeks, Levant has been hospitalized due to mental health and addiction. His doctors have given him a four-hour pass to supposedly attend his daughter’s graduation. Instead, Oscar will be on television. While Oscar’s wife, the former June Gale (Emily Bergl) wants to be the loving and supportive spouse, she also knows that what can give him is not enough.

Hayes blew me away. I knew he was good (I’ve been a fan of Will & Grace for years), but I didn’t know he was that good.

Hayes’s Levant is a sarcastic blowhard who is not afraid to speak truth to power. He is also dealing with emotional scars that have yet to heal. Hiding those scars under jokes and pills, he is a complicated man who is both unlikeable and open about his mental illness. This is in an era in which the list of what was not allowed to be said on television was long and likely to offend many.

The strongest scene in terms of the writing (which is truly a hard decision to make) is the one in which Levant tells his story. In creating fiction (specifically in novels), there are two ways that a writer can get tripped up: showing vs. telling and infodumps. By its nature, a good script shows the action instead of telling the audience what is happening.

That does not mean, however, that the playwright can get bungled up and forget to show. What playwright Doug Wright does brilliantly is to unfold Levant’s biography in a way that is informative and funny without turning a dry list of dates and events.

When he finally gets to the piano, Levant is in his element. Hayes is hypnotic when he is playing. It was breathtaking, and beautiful, and will forever be burnt into my brain.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. This play cannot be missed.

Good Night, Oscar is playing until August 27th. Check the website for tickets and show times.

The German Wife: A Novel Book Review

War forces us to hate one another based on outside characteristics such as the nation of origin. But that does not mean, that we can see each other as human beings once the conflict ends.

The German Wife, by Kelly Rimmer, was published last year. The book follows two women as their fates are intertwined in post-war Huntsville.

Lizzie Miller experienced unimaginable loss during The Great Depression. After the war is over, she is appalled that Operation Paperclip has allowed former Nazi scientists into the country and into the most sensitive scientific work of the era. While other women in the community are eager to welcome the wives and children of these scientists, Lizzie is completely against the idea and is not silent about it.

In 1930 in Berlin, Sofie von Meyer Rhodes, whose husband is a respected academic, does not agree with the politics of the new government. But his status gives them a leg up. For this alone, she is willing to make some compromises. It slowly becomes clear that that are difficult decisions to be made. After the war, Sofie arrives in America, expecting some sort of hostility. But she has no idea that the secrets from the past are going to catch up with her.

This is an amazing book. Both Lizzie and Sofie are in a tough position. Due to circumstances forced upon them by history, they have to make choices that would otherwise not exist.

I wanted to be on Lizzie’s side. She has every right to be angry. But I also understand that Sofie is caught in an impossible position. She has two young children to take care of. But she also has her own moral compass that goes against everything she is seeing and hearing.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The German Wife: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.

Things That Make Me Angry: The Anniversary of the Buffalo Shooting and Nakba Day

Hate should have no place in this world. It turns us against one another and forces unnecessary destruction of property and life.

This past Sunday was the first anniversary of the shooting in Buffalo. It is a remembrance that no one wanted or needed. But because we allow racism to persist and refuse to enact reasonable gun control laws, 10 people lost their lives.

Earlier this week, the 75th anniversary Nakba Day was “commemorated” by the United Nations and pushed in the halls of Congress by Rashida Tlaib.

Instead of getting on my soapbox, I’m going to let the experts do the talking.

At the end of the day, the only way to end racism and prejudice is to face the truth and see one another as human beings. Until then, we will continue to destroy one another over superficialities.

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New Randy Rainbow Video: Welcome to DeSantis! – A Randy Rainbow Song Parody

There is a reason why it has been said that we don’t learn from our past, we are doomed to repeat it.

Randy Rainbow‘s new video, Welcome to DeSantis! – A Randy Rainbow Song Parody, uses “Welcome to the 60’s“, from Hairspray to remind us that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is an autocrat waiting in the wings.

This is my favorite song yet from Rainbow. He couldn’t have picked a more perfect song to remind us that DeSantis should be nowhere near the levers of power at any level of government.

P.S. It is now legal in his state for medical professionals or insurance companies to deny a patient healthcare because of individual beliefs. I should be shocked, but I know better. This is what we are heading for if he wins in 2024.

Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire Book Review

In popular culture, a heartthrob is a male entertainer whose fanbase mostly consists of young(ish) females who squeal at the very thought of this man.

Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire by Carol Dyhouse, was published in 2017. In this fascinating and unique take on media and popular culture, Dyhouse examines how heartthrobs from all different genres and eras have liberated women from the conundrum of being sexual and appealing without “going over the line”. Starting with Lord Byron in the 19th century and ending with our modern era, she dives into the various figures over the decades who have made young girls scream and turned grown women turn into squealing teenagers.

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This is a good read. Though it would be easy to peg these females as brainless, this reaction is actually a natural one. Like our male counterparts, we are human beings and react in a certain way when we see an attractive person. The highlight of the narrative is the female gaze, which has been overlooked and underappreciated for far too long.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire is available wherever books are sold.

Leopoldstadt Play Review

There are some theatrical experiences that stay with you forever.

Leopoldstadt, by Tom Stoppard, is presently playing on Broadway. Taking its name from Vienna‘s old Jewish quarter, the play follows an assimilated and upper-class Austrian Jewish family from the turn of the century until the mid-1950s. Some members of this particular family have married out or have converted to Catholicism for business and social opportunities.

Though it seems that the antisemitism of the past has died, it is simmering just under the surface. As time progresses and the family changes, the safety net slowly dissipates, revealing the dark underbelly that was only waiting for an opportunity to be released into the world.

Leopoldstadt is one of the best plays I have ever seen. If my own work is half as good as this script, I will jump for joy.

What astounds me is that there are 38 main characters across multiple decades and generations. In my own writing, one of the rules that I go by is to limit the number of people who exist within the worlds I am creating. Too many characters make it confusing for both the writer and the reader/audience. No one on that stage is an afterthought or hastily drawn.

Based on the revelations of Stoppard’s own family history that was hidden for decades, this story is universal, heartbreaking, joyous, and a reminder that the Holocaust is far from ancient history.

By the time we got to the final scene, the stage felt empty. It was as if the ghosts of those who were murdered filled up the space, begging the audience to never forget. My heart was pounding, and my mouth was open, but I could not speak. Without giving the specific details away, I will say that it is devastating and heartbreaking.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. Run, don’t walk to see Leopoldstadt.

Leopoldstadt is playing until July 2. Check the website for tickets and showtimes.

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