Look, an interesting new graphic biography of Mamas and the Papas singer Cass Elliot!
In other things-I-wrote news, I enjoyed a genre-smashing lesbian time-travel romance and a queer cabaret about Weimar Germany. I enjoyed learning that Lucius Malfoy attended Orthodox Day School. I enjoyed getting to welcome one of my heroes, historian Jenna Weissman Joselit, to Tablet — once upon a time we both wrote columns for The Jewish Forward. (Re-u-ni-ted and it feels so good!) And in SorryWatch news, I enjoyed this lovely caffeinated apology.
I am less full of enjoyment about instances of women and female smurfs being erased from ultra-Orthodox media, and about the crappy apology from The Daily Beast for outing gay athletes, but we can’t have everything.
In book news, I’ll be at Temple Beth-El in Providence, RI (my homeland!) on April 9th at 10:30 am. Deets here.
Would you like to know about silent screen star Rudolph Valentino’s workout? Of course you would!
In 1923, Valentino published an 81-page book of exercise tips called How You Can Keep Fit. I discovered this while searching for a photo I’d seen somewhere of Valentino in what seemed to be Chuck Taylors. (I am pondering the purchase of some Chuck Taylors.) And look, he is wearing them here! And they are very pristine!
Thanks to the Internet Archive, now you too can read and download the whole book.
An aside that is not really an aside: As a college frosh I took a seminar with the film scholar Miriam Hansen. Her class was where I first learned the phrase “the male gaze.” She talked about the way Valentino was marketed as the first sex symbol for women. Until him, men in the movies looked at women and women were looked at. But Valentino, who played exotic and oft-undressed sheiks and caballeros rather than all-American dudes, was himself presented as an object of desire. Of course, the natural order of things was SORTA kept: Women in his movies who looked lustfully at him were always bad women, while women he looked at were pure and good. But…women in the audience were, of course, looking at him! So let’s see, women who turn the female gaze on dudes are still bad, except maybe NOT, because Valentino is both subject and object. As Miriam wrote, “the erotic appeal of the Valentinian gaze… is one of reciprocity and ambivalence, rather than mastery and objectification.” It messes up the power structure. Which may be why male film execs and viewers often had major mishegas about Valentino. They impugned his masculinity and were obsessed with his sexuality. The fact that he was usually shot in the gleam-y, soft-focus-y way reserved for starlets worked men up into even more of a lather. But money talked, so moviemakers kept making movies in which he stripped, smoldered and shone. (Valentino, meet Magic Mike.)
But we were talking about his workout guide!
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A new documentary asks whether it’s OK to make jokes about the Holocaust: What makes a joke about genocide funny? (Or not?)
And there’s a new initiative to support trans kids in the Jewish community.
Also, check out the five best children’s books about the holiday of Purim. I have opinions. You are shocked.
I’ll be in Washington DC, at the Edlavitch JCC on Thursday, March 16, to talk about Mamaleh Knows Best as part of the JCC’s Litfest. Hope to see you there.
Except for this unhinged rant about Peeps Oreos. No politics, just venom.
Explicitly political: Here are some awesome rabbis, of varying denominations and backgrounds and genders, fighting for refugee rights (and getting arrested, like the badasses they are).
Here is why I fell for a Google ad even though I know it’s designed to sell me stuff.
Here is a Mahler concert that got unexpectedly pointed and moving.
Here is a review of five new young adult books that may be of interest to adult-adults. I should have reviewed four. But I would have had to drop one of my two faves and I am willing to subsume my own desire to look talented in the NYT to the necessity of people knowing about one superb book.
Here, from SorryWatch, is a TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE apology for a terrible headline in a story about a rape trial.
Also, I’m speaking about Jewish humor and reading from Mamaleh Knows Best on March 3 at 8:30 at the Brotherhood Synagogue in Gramercy Park. Free! And I’m on a panel about first-person writing and Jewishness and parenthood with delightful feminist authoresses Rabbi Susan Silverman and Carla Naumberg, Ph.D., on March 16 at 7:30 at the Edlavitch JCC in Washington, DC.
Welp, the votes are in and I’m curled up under my desk like a snail. But last week I wrote this piece about why Jews should be horrified by the notion of Betsy DeVos being confirmed as education secretary. Or you could read this other thing about Israeli visionary art shoes DO WHAT YOU WANT WE ARE ALL DOOMED.
Here is a piece I wrote about the OTHER Trump Magazine. It was created in 1957 by Harvey Kurtzman, who started MAD Magazine, and published by Hugh Hefner. It lasted two issues.
And here’s a neat little museum show depicting the Jewish ghetto (in NYC at the turn of the century, and in Eastern Europe) in postcards. I love old postcards. They tell you a lot, not just about what’s in the picture on the front, but about what people who buy postcards want to see.
Here are some recommendations of children’s books about great civil rights leaders your family should know about who are NOT Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
And here are this year’s winners of the Sydney Taylor Awards for best Jewish children’s books!
Shocking no one, I squeal some more about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which recently produced possibly the most Jewish episode of TV comedy ever.
In Mamaleh Knows Best book news, I’ll be at Beth El Synagogue in Omaha on February 2, and at The Brotherhood Synagogue in NYC on March 3. More upcoming appearances on the Mamaleh Knows Best web site.
Also, one of my kids and I went to the NYC Women’s March. It was great. Here is a sign I liked.
I have a piece in Real Simple about my insouciant, devil-may-care inability to finish projects I start, a trait that delights all those around me. A life coach, a psychiatrist and a personal assistant try to help. Plus:
J’adore Paris-based jewelry designer (and Holocaust survivor) Léa Stein’s work. Madeleine Albright does too. Read about her in Tablet Magazine.
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Ta da! My annual list. SO MUCH LOVE FOR THESE BOOKS. Buy them! Read them!
Also for Tablet, a look at a new Jewish literary journal and a visit with The Schlep Sisters, purveyors of sexy funny Jewy burlesque.
On SorryWatch, a cowardly resentful passive-aggressive yet yearning non-apology song on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (where else?) and a pretty good apology from Tulane’s admissions department after a pretty big screwup.
In Mamaleh Knows Best news, I’m chatting about the book with Shmuel Rosner over at Jewish Journal. Part one of our conversation is here; part two is here. Stay tuned for part three. Motherwell included Mamaleh in its list of the year’s best parenting books, and Elana Sztokman of JewFem listed it as one of her six favorite books by Jewish women in 2016. It would make a great Hanukkah gift, I’m only saying.
This photo is my mantra right now.
In work news: For the New York Times, I reviewed an academic book about the history of the menorah (and learned two new words, aniconism and pseudepigraphic).
For Tablet, I wrote about the sudden, unannounced whitewashing of a historic Jewish mural on the Lower East Side; the little-known Jewish history of Yahtzee and Bingo; the seasonal Christianification of It’s a Small World; seven great Jewish-themed “princess” characters ripe for Disney’s movie-makin’ picking’; a gorgeous photography book about the decaying Borscht Belt; and Israel’s SufganiKing donutburger, a Hanukkah delight. (Or “delight.”)
For SorryWatch, I wrote about an excellent apology accompanied by hot pictures of Chris Hemsworth and a crap apology for applauding someone who called Michelle Obama “an ape in heels.”
In book news, thank you, Kveller, for including Mamaleh Knows Best among The 17 Best Books of 2016. Upcoming appearances: Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel in Philadelphia on January 11th at 7pm; The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) annual conference in NYC on January 14 at 9pm; and Temple Beth-El in Omaha on February 2 at 7:30pm.
How do those of us who believe in multiculturalism, diversity and tolerance explain the results of yesterday’s presidential election to kids? I keep thinking back to everything I’ve learned over the years about what makes for effective Holocaust education: Don’t minimize, but don’t traumatize. Don’t lie. Be developmentally appropriate, but offer hope and emphasize the actions of helpers.
Some specifics for right now:
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