Monday, April 15, 2013

Amazing Women

"I dreamed of New York, I am going there."

On May 31, 1953, twenty-year-old Sylvia Plath arrived in New York City for a one-month stint at "the intellectual fashion magazine" Mademoiselle to be a guest editor for its prestigious annual college issue. Over the next twenty-six days, the bright, blond New England collegian lived at the Barbizon Hotel, attended Balanchine ballets, watched a game at Yankee Stadium, and danced at the West Side Tennis Club. She typed rejection letters to writers from The New Yorker and ate an entire bowl of caviar at an advertising luncheon. She stalked Dylan Thomas and fought off an aggressive diamond-wielding delegate from the United Nations. She took hot baths, had her hair done, and discovered her signature drink (vodka, no ice). Young, beautiful, and on the cusp of an advantageous career, she was supposed to be having the time of her life.

Drawing on in-depth interviews with fellow guest editors whose memories infuse these pages, Elizabeth Winder reveals how these twenty-six days indelibly altered how Plath saw herself, her mother, her friendships, and her romantic relationships, and how this period shaped her emerging identity as a woman and as a writer. Pain, Parties, Work—the three words Plath used to describe that time—shows how Manhattan's alien atmosphere unleashed an anxiety that would stay with her for the rest of her all-too-short life.

Thoughtful and illuminating, this captivating portrait invites us to see Sylvia Plath before The Bell Jar, before she became an icon—a young woman with everything to live for.

Alexandra Aldrich, a direct descendant of the famous Astor dynasty, grew up in the servants' quarters of Rokeby, the forty-three-room Hudson Valley mansion built by her ancestors. Her childhood was one of bohemian neglect and real privation. But it was fairly stable until the summer of her tenth year, when her father took up with an alluring interloper, Giselle.

Alexandra idolized her father, Rokeby's charismatic lord of misrule, who had attended elite private schools as a child but inherited only landed property, not money. To him, she says, "poverty was amusing, a delightful challenge." All of the family's resources—emotional and financial—went to the maintenance of the Astor house and legacy. If the family had sold the house and its 450 acres, they all would have been able to live comfortably. Instead, Alexandra and her parents lived precariously in the grand house, scavenging for the next meal. Her mother, an icy Polish artist, disguised her maternal indifference by extolling the virtues of independence. Relatives preyed on Alexandra's low status in the household. Once her father got involved with Giselle, Alexandra's only stalwart was her affectionate grandmother (whose great-great-grandfather, Nicholas Fish, was a close friend of Alexander Hamilton's and an executor of his estate). Grandma Claire held Alexandra's life together with family dinner parties, rides to violin lessons, and snacks after school. But as she grew progressively more debilitated by alcohol, she soon became too frail to provide a safe haven for her granddaughter.

Determined to impose order on her anarchic world and prove her worth, Alexandra awoke promptly at six thirty each morning, adhering to a strict personal regimen of exercise, grooming, and intensive violin practice. With money borrowed from the owner of the local gas station, she did the grocery shopping, occasionally setting aside four dollars to buy herself clean white socks. The betrayal of her father's flagrant affair, however, ignited a series of familial feuds that shook her hard-won stability and set her on a path toward escaping the Astor legacy.

Reaching back to the Gilded Age, when that legacy first began to come undone, Alexandra has written an unflinching, mordantly funny account of neglect and class anxiety amid the ruins of a once prominent family. More than an insider's look at a decaying American institution, The Astor Orphan is the debut of a thrilling new voice able to render the secret pains and glories of childhood afresh.

With passion and unflinching honesty, renowned tattoo artist and New York Times bestselling author Kat Von D chronicles her journey to develop greater personal strength by taking bigger risks in life, love, and her art in this stunning illustrated book.
In Go Big or Go Home, her most intensely personal work yet, Kat Von D raises the expository and tattoo bar as she writes candidly about her greatest desires, fears, successes, and failures, and shares how she has dealt with them—for better or worse. In seven thematic essays, she addresses issues close to her heart—individuality, strength, creativity, independence, presence, wisdom, and altruism—and draws on engaging and inspiring stories from her own life and those of her clients throughout each section.

Aligned with this focus on risk taking, making bold moves, and taking responsibility for her actions is Kat's decision to create only large-scale tattoos especially for this book. Each tattoo represents a two-fold commitment: one from Kat as an artist. and the other from the client, for whom the tattoo almost always represents a significant event or a visible manifestation of his or her evolving inner self.

Filled with Kat's sketches, handwriting, and specially commissioned photographs of tattoos—both in process and complete—Go Big or Go Home features a range of astounding work both on regular citizens and the many celebrities who seek her out, including songwriter Linda Perry, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, actor Ewan MacGregor, rapper Game, and comedian Bobcat Goldthwait.

Above all, this special book captures the candor, compassion, and enormous talent of an artist beloved by millions worldwide.

Comes out 4-30-13

However Long the Night is the extraordinary story of one woman's determination to create a movement toward change, and a better future, for millions of girls and women across Africa. Molly Melching grew up in the Midwest but was called to explore the world outside her hometown when she arrived in Senegal in 1974. There, she quickly grew invested in the fate of the Senegalese women she met. Based on her experiences living in a remote African village, she founded Tostan, an organization dedicated to empowering African communities by using democracy and human-rights-based education to promote relationships built upon dignity, equality, and respect. She forever changed her life and the lives of those touched by Tostan.
Unlike many Western organizations that have tried to transform various African cultures from the outside, Melching, who was named as one of the "150 women who shake the world" by Newsweek and Daily Beast, understands that true change comes only from within. Tostan's groundbreaking strategies have led to better education for the women of rural Africa, improved health care, a decrease in child/forced marriage, and declarations by thousands of African communities to abandon the centuries-old practice of female genital cutting.

However Long the Night brings together Melching's riveting personal journey with the stories of the Senegalese women and men who found the courage to lead this movement. This book is a testament to the fact that the connections between women can lead to a better world.

In the closing pages of her 1988 autobiography Debbie: My Life, Debbie Reynolds wrote about finding her "brave, loyal, and loving" new husband. After two broken marriages, this third, she believed, was her lucky charm. But within a few years, Debbie discovered that he had betrayed her emotionally and financially, nearly destroying her life.

Today, she writes, "When I read the optimistic ending of my last memoir now, I can't believe how naive I was when I wrote it. In Unsinkable, I look back at the many years since then, and share my memories of a film career that took me from the Miss Burbank Contest of 1948 to the work I did in 2012. . . . To paraphrase Bette Davis: Fasten your seatbelts, I've had a bumpy ride."
Unsinkable shines a spotlight on the resilient woman whose talent and passion for her work have endured for more than six decades. In her engaging, down-to-earth voice, Debbie shares private details about her man and money troubles, including building and losing her Las Vegas dream hotel and her treasured Hollywood memorabilia collection. Yet no matter how difficult the problems, the show always goes on.

Debbie also invites us into the close circle of her family, speaking with deep affection and honesty about her relationships with her children, Carrie and Todd Fisher. She looks back at her life as an actress during Hollywood's Golden Age—"the most magical time you could imagine"—including her lifelong friendship with (and years-long estrangement from) the legendary Elizabeth Taylor. Here, too, are stories that never reached the tabloids about numerous celebrities, such as Ava Gardner, Clark Gable, Frank Sinatra, Mick Jagger, Gene Kelly, and many more. She takes us on a guided tour through her movies with delightful, often hilarious behind-the-scenes anecdotes about every film in which she was involved, from 1948 to the present.

Frank and forthright, and featuring dozens of previously unseen photos from Debbie's personal collection, Unsinkable is a poignant reminder that there is light in the darkest times. It is a revealing portrait of a woman whose determination is an inspiration.

Assembled by Audrey Hepburn's son Luca Dotti, Audrey in Rome is an intimate collection of almost two hundred candid photographs of the beloved actress and much-imitated style icon during the twenty-year period she made Rome her home.

A private album of rare snapshots—many never published before—of Audrey Hepburn in her everyday life as a citizen of the Eternal City, Audrey in Rome is a treasure for every fan of her films and her impeccable, timeless style. With an introduction by Dotti that reveals Audrey's private side and three photo-filled chapters organized by decade, the book captures the actress as she strolls around the city alone and with family and friends, walks her Yorkie, Mr. Famous, has breakfast in Piazza Navona, visits the local florist, and more. The book also contains set photographs of the films she made during her Rome years (Roman Holiday, War and Peace, The Nun's Story, Breakfast at Tiffany's) and of the famous clothes and accessories that helped create her iconic look. Irresistible as the actress herself, Audrey in Rome opens the door to Hepburn's personal world.

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