Category Archives: Writing

Jewish American Heritage Month: Americans Jews Who Made an Impact

May is Jewish American Heritage Month. With antisemitism on the rise in frightening numbers, the easier thing would be to hide who we are. Instead, we should be loud and proud of who we are. In honor of this month, I would like to offer a small list of American Jews who have made an impact on this nation.

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P.S. Last week was both Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut. Happy Birthday Israel and may the memories of those who gave their lives for their country be a blessing.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Judaism, Movies, Politics, Writing

The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination Book Review

Over the centuries, women have been portrayed as many things: the innocent victim who is in need of rescue, the slut, the man-hater, the marriage-minded miss, etc. The problem with these images is that they are 2-D and without room to grow beyond the boxed-in perception. The only way to smash these stereotypes is to allow us to tell our own stories from our perspective.

The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (published in 1979), this classic 1970’s second-wave nonfiction book examines how female characters are portrayed in 19th-century novels. Authors Susan Gubar and Sandra M. Gilbert compare the images of women created by male writers as opposed to the images created by female writers. Using the analogy of Bertha Mason (the literal madwoman in the attic) from the Charlotte Bronte novel, Jane Eyre, they dive into the fiction of authors such as Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Mary Shelley, etc.

This book is a classic for a reason. Forty-plus years after its initial publication, it is as relevant today as it was back then. Their theory that women writers have a greater insight and ability to create 3D fully human characters as opposed to the typecast idea of females that some male writers have can still be seen today on both the page and the screen.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Feminism, George Eliot, History, Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, Writing

Still Mad: American Women Writers and the Feminist Imagination Book Review

A good book does more than entertain. It opens doors, minds, and hearts.

Still Mad: American Women Writers and the Feminist Imagination, by Susan Gubar and Sandra M. Gilbert is the follow-up to their acclaimed 1979 book, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. Published last year, it starts in the 1950s and ends in 2020. It explores how women writers such as Erica Jong, Lorraine Hansberry, Betty Friedan, Sylvia Plath, and Margaret Atwood have used both fiction and nonfiction to explore what it is to be female in the modern world. Each writer, in her way, describes the contradictions, sexism, and obstacles that are placed in front of her that are simply due to being born a woman. They also use feminism as a way to call out the bullshit that men have used to prevent us from reaching our full potential.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate International Women’s Day than to write a review of this book. I read their first book years ago and was blown away. My reaction to its sequel was the same. I loved it. It was powerful, it lit a fire under my proverbial behind, and it reminded me how far we still need to go. They take the energy from The Madwoman in the Attic and use it to propel the story forward. In doing so, Gubar and Gilbert inspire younger generations to take the torch from their hands and continue to fight for our rights.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation Book Review

The Diary of Anne Frank has been read by millions of readers since it was published in 1947. The ending is both hopeful and devastating. The one question that still leaves us hanging after 70+ years, is who was responsible for the betrayal of the residents of the Annex?

The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation, by Rosemary Sullivan, was published this month. The book follows the multi-year search led by FBI investigator Vincent Pankoke to answer the question once and for all. Using modern cold case investigative methodologies and working with a team of historians and other experts, no detail is left to the wind. Every clue is followed to the bitter end, leading to a suspect that if proven to be the one, has gone undetected for nearly a century.

I know it is only January, but I can already see this book topping the list of best books of 2022. It is a heart-pounding thriller that kept me hooked until the final page. As we got closer to the end, I wanted to know who was responsible. If nothing else, it is a reminder that getting justice is still possible, even when those directly affected are no longer with us. When it closed for the last time, I knew that there was a light in the darkness. Perhaps history will not repeat itself and we will finally learn the lessons of diversity and respect.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Joss Whedon Needs to Grow Up and Apologize

I’ve been a fan of Joss Whedon for more than twenty years. He is one of those writer/director types that is only bound by his imagination and his ability to create a compelling narrative.

Between Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, the 2012 Much Ado About Nothing, The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, etc, his career is nothing to sneeze at.

That being said, that does not mean that he has the right to be an asshole.

After multiple accusations of being an all-around jackass on various sets, he threw the blame back on the performers. Speaking of Ray Fisher (Justice League) he claimed that Fisher is a bad actor. If he was so bad, why did he not just fire him and recast the role? It wouldn’t have been the first time and I am sure that it won’t be the last time. The fact that he is making these claims now does not exactly hold water. At least Fisher was the bigger person, which I cannot say about Whedon.

Whedon also claimed that his working relationship with Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot went sour because her native tongue is Hebrew.

“I don’t threaten people. Who does that?” Whedon told New York. “English is not her first language, and I tend to be annoyingly flowery in my speech.”

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There are plenty of actors whose second (or third) language is English. That is no excuse for treating anyone on set as if they are an annoying fly needing to be squashed.

The key to any workplace success (regardless of where one works), is the capacity to be professional, even if we don’t get along with everyone we work with. Whedon either lacks this capacity or thinks that he is above it. Either way, he needs to grow up and apologize.

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Carrie Fisher, 5 Years Gone

Carrie Fisher died five years ago today. Known for her role as Princess/General Leia Organa in the Stars Wars film franchise (among other roles), she was a respected writer and a mental health warrior. Dogged by mental illness and drug addiction for most of her life, it would have been easy to let both diseases get the best of her.

Though her death was and still is tragic, the fact that she was able to find a way to survive both for as long as she did will forever be a huge inspiration to me.

I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.

May her memory forever be a blessing. Z”l.

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Throwback Thursday: In Search of the Brontës (2003)

A good biopic does more than lay out the basic facts about the life and work of the subject(s). It brings that story and the subject(s) to life, creating a connection between the audience and the characters.

In Search of the Brontës (2003) is a one-hour TV movie that told the story of the Bronte sisters, their work, and their family. Starring as the sisters are Victoria Hamilton (Charlotte Bronte), Elizabeth Hurran (Emily Bronte), and Alexandra Milman (Anne Bronte). Behind them is Patrick Malahide as their widower father Patrick and Jonathan McGuiness as their only brother, Branwell.

I thoroughly enjoyed this hour of television. It is a fascinating and deeply moving tale of three of the most beloved writers in literary history. The acting is fantastic and the actors are perfectly cast, giving the viewer the opportunity to get to know the characters outside of the dry historical facts that we know all too well.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Anne Bronte, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Feminism, History, Jane Eyre, Movie Review, Movies, Throwback Thursday, Writing, Wuthering Heights

Thoughts on Jane Austen’s Birthday

It takes a bold person to go against the grain.

In her own time, Jane Austen may not have appeared to go her own way. In her time, a woman’s job was to marry, bear children, and maintain the home. The only way to maintain her legal rights was to remain single. Upon saying “I do”, she and her husband were in the eyes of the law, one person. If she was lucky, she had a basic education, some sort of inheritance coming her way, and a male head out household who at least respected her wishes.

But she did, and in doing so, paved the way for future generations to do the same.

Her books may end in “happily ever after”, but they are so much more than that. She talks about how women are disenfranchised in her world. Marriage was not just about finding the right person. It was a business arrangement. But Austen does not just get on a soapbox. She uses her narratives to speak directly to her readers. Whether it was about family relationships, one’s potential or current spouse, or even silly gossip, her stories are timeless. It is those qualities that keep us coming back to her novels, even when we have read them more times than we can count.

Happy Birthday, Jane!

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The Glass Castle Book Review

Flannery O’Connor once said the following about writing:

“Anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his life.”

If one were to judge writer Jeannette Walls by that quote, they would be able to say that she has enough stories for a lifetime of writing. Her 2006 memoir, The Glass Castle, is the story of her deeply unconventional and sometimes troubling childhood. Her father deeply loved his children. When he was sober, Rex Walls was dedicated to expanding the education of his offspring beyond the classroom and encouraging them to life live to the fullest. But he also had a penchant for drinking too much, often becoming destructive and abusive. Her mother, Rose Mary, was artistic and free-thinking. She was also not exactly the most maternal of mothers, forcing Jeannette and her siblings to basically raise themselves.

One by one, each of the Walls kids eventually made their way to New York City. Though Rex and Rose Mary followed their youngsters to the Big Apple, they continued in their chosen way of life and became homeless. Choosing a more conventional way of living, the second generation of the Walls family thrived.

It would have been easy for Walls to either be extremely judgemental of her parents or spend years in therapy due to a childhood that had the potential to be psychologically damaging. But she chooses to present them on the page as she knew them and let the reader decide how they feel.

I admire the author for having chutzpah. Pulling herself up by her bootstraps, she did what had to do, which included getting away if she wanted a better life in adulthood than she had in her younger years. My problem is that the book was not as compelling as I thought it would be.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Happy Birthday Carrie Fisher

Today is the birthday of the late, great, Carrie Fisher.

I could extoll the virtues of this all around badass, writer, icon, and mental health warrior. But I will let her speak for herself.

Happy Birthday, wherever you are.

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