Tag Archives: 1950's

Growing Up Biden: A Memoir Book Review

You can learn a lot about someone by listening to those who know them best.

Valerie Biden Owens, is among other things, the younger sister of President Joe Biden. Three years younger than her big brother, she tells her story in the new memoir, Growing Up Biden: A Memoir. Born into a close-knit and loving Irish-Catholic family, she is the second child and only daughter. Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, she was not subject to the same rules that separated boys and girls in the era.

After graduating college, she became a surrogate mother to her nephews after her sister-in-law and baby niece was killed in a car accident. Marrying for the second time in the mid-1970s, she has become a force to be reckoned with and a groundbreaker in the modern feminist era.

For fifty years, she has been her brother’s political advisor, sounding board, and someone he can rely on through thick and thin.

Reading this book reminded me of why I voted for Biden in the first place. Despite his political imperfections, he is a man who believes in this country, and its possibilities, and is willing to do the work that is needed to move the nation forward.

The one thing that has stayed with me is her stance on abortion. I won’t give it away if you have not read the book, but I will say that her experience matches the stories that other women have had in regard to the subject.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Growing Up Biden: A Memoir is available wherever books are sold.

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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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Throwback Thursday: The Bletchley Circle (2012-2014)

World War II was if nothing else, a game-changer. While the men were at war, women had career opportunities that were previously denied to them.

The television series, The Bletchley Circle (2012-2014) followed five former employees of Bletchley Park. Millie (Rachael Stirling), Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin), Jean (Julie Graham), Lucy (Sophie Rundle), and Alice (Hattie Morahan) whose job was to help win the war. Now that the men have come home, the women have returned to the traditional roles of wives and mothers. But that does not mean that the skills they used during that time have completely faded into the background. When a serial killer leaves a trail of bodies behind, the women come together to find who this person is and stop them.

I wanted to like the series. It had all of the elements of a program I would love: the era, the performers, a female-driven detective narrative. But it was unfortunately bored rather quickly and turned it off. Whatever hook exists to keep viewers coming back was lost on me.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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Flashback Friday: Chrisley Knows Best (2014-Present)

There is something curious about reality television. We know that the term “reality” is a misnomer. For all it claims of being true to life, it is just as scripted as any fictional program. But yet, we leave our skepticism at the door, expecting everything that occurs on screen to be released to the public as it was filmed.

Chrisley Knows Best has been on the air since 2014. The series follows wealthy businessman Todd Chrisley and his family as they go about their business. If his wife, his children, and his mother were to ask about his worse qualities, they would say that he is controlling, quick to get upset, and unwilling to see another’s perspective.

A play off of the 1950’s sitcom, Father Knows Best, this show is best described as a low rent version of The Osbournes. Within the parameters of “reality shows“, this program is the worst of the worst. It is brainless, foolish, and I personally find that there is nothing entertaining about this family. It has been on the air for quite a few years, so obviously, there is an audience for it. But I am not part of that audience.

Do I recommend it? No.

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History of the Sitcom Review

The beautiful thing about art is that it is never static. It adapts to both time and culture, giving creators the ability to match what is going on in the wider world.

The new eight part mini-series CNN miniseries, History of the Sitcom, premiered on Sunday night. Each episode focuses on how the sitcom evolved over time and reflects on how it explores the different aspects of our lives from family to work to school, etc. Interviewing actors, writers, and producers, it delves into how this genre has shaped American culture.

I really enjoyed the first two episodes. The first one focused on the evolution of the family sitcom and how it has evolved from the white, suburban Father Knows Best and The Donna Reed Show programs that populated the television schedule of the 1950’s. The second one talked about how sex, sexuality, the LGBTQ community, and the different variations of gender have been seen by audiences.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

History of the Sitcom airs on Sunday night at 9PM on CNN.

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Lilyville: Mother, Daughter, and Other Roles I’ve Played Book Review

The relationship with our parents is not always black and white. We love them, we respect them, and we are grateful for what they have given us. But we can also be plagued by their flaws and what we wished we had received from them as children.

Lilyville: Mother, Daughter, and Other Roles I’ve Played, written by the iconic Broadway performer Tovah Feldshuh, was released last month. In the book, Ms. Feldshuh talks about her life and career while detailing the sometimes difficult relationship, she had with her late mother, Lily. Born in the Bronx and raised in Westchester town of Scarsdale, she lived the comfortable life of a young lady growing up in the middle class in the 1950’s.

Trying to live up to the ideals that her mother believed in, Tovah never quite received the emotional support she craved. It was only years later after her father had died that mother and daughter finally had the connection that did not exist in Tovah’s childhood. Balancing work, marriage, and motherhood, she finally understood Lily in a way that only occurs in adulthood.

This is easily one of the best books of 2021. It’s heartfelt, its humorous, and authentic. Though the details are specific to her life, it could easily be the story of any complicated parent/child relationship. What I took from the book is that it is possible to move beyond the unspoken words between us and our parents. It would have not been unexpected to slide into CEN (Childhood Emotional Neglect). But the fact that they were able to not only get along, but understand each other, is a testament that it can be done.

I had the pleasure of seeing Ms. Feldshuh play Golda Meir in Golda’s Balcony years ago. It was one of the most powerful and enduring performances I have ever seen on stage.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Recipe for a Perfect Wife: A Novel Book Review

For generations, the suburbs has been an ideal place to live. But as perfect as they may appear to be, no one can be predict what happens when the doors to the neighbors houses are closed.

Karma Brown‘s 2018 book, Recipe for a Perfect Wife: A Novel, takes place in the northern suburbs of New York City. The book follows two different women in two different time periods. In our time, Alice Hale worked in public relations before leaving the city and her career for a new life as a home owner and a writer. While her husband is at work, Alice has to get used to her new surroundings. While going down to the basement, she discovers old magazines, recipes, and a series of unsent letters written by a previous owner. In the 1950’s, Nellie Murdoch was a housewife who was living the dream. To the outside world, Nellie’s life is faultless. But if one were to step inside the Murdoch home, they would see that her marriage is not all sunshine and roses.

As she learns about Nellie, Alice begins to explore her own life and question her choices.

Brown is not the first author and will certainly never be the last one who uses this type of narrative. The book is not badly written. Far from it, the narrative is captivating and the characters fit well into the world. But it is missing a certain something that makes it stand out.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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