Tag Archives: women

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s Bestseller To Become a Movie

lean inFacebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg made waves last year when she released the nonfiction bestseller Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Despite the controversy (keep reading…), it seems the bestseller is headed for the big screen.

According to Los Angeles Times, Sony put in a bid for the movie “Lean In” to be written by Sandberg’s co-writer Nell Scovel. Execs promise the movie will not be about Sandberg, but a “narrative film from the themes contained within the book.”

Focused on the social issues that face women in the workforce, the book got a lot of praise from some, but hate from others. Some complained that Sheryl Sandberg doesn’t face the challenges of the “everyday woman” because she is one of the richest and most powerful women in the country. Others felt she claims that it’s up to women to make the changing needed to the workforce, and not corporations and companies themselves.

It’s not easy to make a fictional movie out of a nonfiction bestseller, though it has been done; take He’s Just Not That Into You, for example, which was turned into a movie starring Jennifer Aniston and Bradley Cooper, among many other well-known actors. That movie didn’t do nearly as well as the book, and I imagine it will be a similar case for “Lean In.”

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Review: Rome For Beginners

Recap: When three women have moments of crises, they decide it’s not time for an escape, but for a new life altogether. So begins Rome for Beginners, set in modern-day Rome, telling the stories of three American women who have left the States only to meet and befriend each other in Rome. They have become close, and together, they struggle with everyday problems — work, ex-husbands, children, and dating. But to add to it all, they’re in a foreign country, attempting to learn a new language and culture.

Suzanne has been living in Rome for years. Her ex is Italian, and her son is a problem child. Lilian is divorced and dating a younger Italian man named Massimo, but she’s supposed to be working on a big project for her job back in the United States. Brennan is a runner who has found work but could be deported at any time. Sex And the City meets Eat, Pray, Love, this is a story about women searching for love, happiness and self-actualization. They rely on their friendship to achieve it all. But can they? And can they do it in Rome of all places?

Analysis: On the surface, Rome for Beginners is a sort of combination of SATC and Eat, Pray, Love but not quite on that caliber. There’s a group of middle-aged friends attempting to get in the dating game and find themselves. But to that end, we don’t see a lot of character development or growth during the course of the novel. Brennan is the only character who faces the most significant changes at the end — and all at once — but the others more or less continue living their lives. Maybe that’s just realistic. But I found myself, waiting for this big turnaround moment to happen that never seem to came.

That’s not to say Rome for Beginners doesn’t have its fair share of charm and humor; it does. Each chapter of the book takes the perspective of another woman, so the reader gets an in-depth look at each of the characters. But it’s the moments when the women are together that are the most enjoyable. Their friendships are strong and hysterical in ways that female friendships often are. When embarrassing or seemingly tragic things happen, they have each other to make light of it and help each other out.

Rome for Beginners is light and cute — a good, quick summer read. But at the end, I found myself wondering what was the point? But maybe, that was the point.

MVP: Brennan. On a personal level, I could relate to her the most. But the best thing about Brennan is that she comes closest to achieving self-actualization, even though other events force her to get to that point. At the end of the novel, I was proud of and happy for Brennan.

Get Rome For Beginners on your Kindle now for just $4.40.

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Review: Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.

Recap: In 1950’s America, women were seen as one of two things in movies and television: either perfect housewives or bad-girl sluts. There was no in-between, and there wouldn’t be an in-between until Audrey Hepburn played Holly Golightly in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. tells the true story of the novel turned Academy Award-winning movie that not only changed the film industry, but changed women in America forever.

When Truman Capote wrote the novel Breakfast at Tiffany’s in the 1950’s, Audrey Hepburn had already gone from model to actress, starring in movies like Roman HolidaySabrina, and Funny Face. But she’d never had a serious acting role, one that would put her on the map and prove that she had the chops to be a character unlike herself. Until Tiffany’s.

In Fifth Avenue, author Sam Wasson writes in depth about how producers acquired the rights to turn Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s into a movie. He writes about the difficulty they had getting the script approved and casting the film. After all, the story is about a hooker. At that time, sex was not portrayed in movies, and if it was, it was portrayed by bad girls like Marilyn Monroe. Many actresses refused to play a woman who gets paid for sex, and Hepburn wasn’t the ideal girl for the job, initially. After all, she’s not sexy. She’s cute. But that turned out to be exactly the thing that made the movie work. Hepburn made Holly Golightly likable. Not only that, but Hepburn and Holly changed the way women dressed, the way they carried themselves, and the way they dealt with men.

Analysis: As someone who’s only seen the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s decades after it was made and pronounced one of the classics, I think Wasson did a fantastic job of explaining the role of women and the role of movies in America in the 1950’s and 1960’s. A world of sexless movies is foreign to me, but Wasson’s invites you into that universe, which explains why Tiffany’s was considered risque and forward-thinking for its time.

This also explains why it had such an impact on Hepburn’s career. Suddenly, she wasn’t some pretty girl anymore. She was an actress — one who convinced other actresses that it was okay to play a woman having sex, one who convinced women it was okay to enjoy sex, and one who convinced women it was also okay to forgo colored clothes for black.

Wasson’s other tidbits of background add to the intrigue of Tiffany’s as well; for instance, “Moon River” was almost turned down as Holly Golightly’s song. Or that Hepburn needed a lot of extra acting help from the film’s director. Or that actor George Peppard didn’t get along with most of the people who worked on the movie.

MVP: Audrey Hepburn/Holly Golightly. Thank you for what you’ve done for women, fashion, and movies.
Get Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. in paperback for $10.29.

Or get it on your Kindle for just $7.59.

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Male vs. Female Authors: The Double Standard

How likely is it that a man goes to a bookstore and purchases a pink book with a picture of a stiletto on it? Or a little girl on a farm? How likely is it that a woman goes to a bookstore and purchases a red book with bold, black typeface and some kind of faraway landscape? The fact of the matter is people really do judge books by their covers. And if that book seems remotely feminine and has a female author, a man will likely move on to the next shelf.

According to this important essay in The New York Times, “women’s fiction” consists of books that are written by women. But they’re not necessarily for women. And they certainly aren’t always “chick lit.” But many tend to lump women’s fiction and chick lit together — identifying these books as silly, quick reads about women and their romantic relationships with men as well as their friendships with other women. Essayist Meg Wolitzer uses Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot as an example of the exception to the rule — a book that has mainly feminine themes, but is written by a male. It’s been hugely successful, but women write books with similar content and themes all the time and don’t get nearly as much recognition. Is it simply because they’re women?

Furthermore, women’s fiction and chick lit are not the same. Women’s fiction can be as serious as any man’s book. And whereas a woman tends to be open to reading a book written by a man, men aren’t necessarily as inclined to read books written by women, as Meg Wolitzer explains.

Recently at a social gathering, when a guest found out I was a writer, he asked, “Would I have heard of you?” I dutifully told him my name — no recognition, fine, I’m not that famous — and then, at his request, I described my novels. “You know, contemporary, I guess,” I said. “Sometimes they’re about marriage. Families. Sex. Desire. Parents and children.” After a few uncomfortable moments he called his wife over, announcing that she, who “reads that kind of book,” was the one I ought to talk to. When I look back on that encounter, I see a lost opportunity. When someone asks, “Would I have heard of you?” many female novelists would be tempted to answer, “In a more just world.”

Wolitzer explains that women’s books are actually less reviewed, according to statistics gathered by a women’s literary organization called VIDA. She talks about the length of books, their covers, their jackets. But ultimately it all comes back to who has written the book. Wolitzer goes into incredible depth with this essay, and I urge you to read it in its entirety. While I often don’t think much about who wrote the book I’m reading, it’s something I’ll begin to consider now.


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The Next Big Trilogy Is Getting Everyone Hot and Bothered

It’s the book that has women across the country hot and bothered: Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s the new adult fiction hit that’s selling so fast, publishers recently reached a deal to release more copies. And like Eat, Pray, Love and The Kite Runner, it’s also having a broad impact on women.

Fifty Shades of Grey is an erotic novel — one that tells the story of a successful business man and his heated relationship with an innocent — or not-so-innocent — college student. Oh yes. I know you’re thinking dirty thoughts already.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, erotic novels are exactly the type that women will purchase on their e-readers. After all, no one can see what they’re buying and judge them for it. But Fifty Shades, which is the first in a trilogy of the same name, appeals to more than just the romance novel aficionados, and that’s why it’s #1 on The New York Times e-book fiction bestseller list and #3 on Amazon’s bestseller list, according to this article by The New York Times.

It’s selling out everywhere; not to mention, not too many copies were published because it was written by a British author, E L James. But alas, Vintage Books this week paid a 7-figure sum, winning a bidding war for the rights to all three books. New e-book versions of the trilogy will be released next week, followed by 750,000 print copies.

And as Julie Bosman explains, the book is doing more than just selling; it’s affecting women’s sex lives.

Except this book has been credited with something else: introducing women who usually read run-of-the-mill literary or commercial fiction to graphic, heavy-breathing erotica. And in the cities and suburbs of New York, Denver and Minneapolis, the women who have devoured the books say they are feeling the happy effects at home.

“It’s relighting a fire under a lot of marriages,” said Lyss Stern, the founder of DivaMoms.com and one of the early fans of the series. “I think it makes you feel sexy again, reading the books.”

So, will you be picking up a copy? I know I will!

The first book is available for pre-order on Amazon now for $10.85.

It’s also available on your Kindle for $9.99.

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The Outrage of “Chick Nonfiction”

Last month, a searing debate arose when one critic called Jodi Kantor’s newest book The Obamas a work of “chick nonfiction.” New York Times writer Douglas Brinkley used the phrase, saying The Obamas was “not about politics, it’s about marriage.”

And so began a heated debate about women’s writing — to whom does it appeal? Is it always about love? Can it ever be serious or liked by a man?

According to this article by Huffington Post, those two words — “chick nonfiction” — got female authors talking about their under-appreciation in the book industry. Author Jennifer Weiner took to Twitter and an email with TABLET magazine to say this:

“My suspicion is that if a male reporter had written a detailed, well-researched, revealing book about the First Marriage, it would have been praised as a serious work of journalism. However, when the old, pernicious double standards still apply, if it’s a lady doing the investigation, the personal can never be political … it can only be gossip, and the writer, however skilled a reporter, is still merely a chick.”

Weiner has a point. Why can’t a woman write a serious book without it being labeled as non-serious? If a man were to write a book about the Obamas, don’t you think it would have been necessary for him to include information about the marriage itself? No one would be calling it “chick nonfiction” then. It would just be nonfiction, truth, fact.

The double standard in the book industry is alive and well. Let’s hope female authors — particularly the ones with gusto like Jennifer Weiner — can stand up to that challenge and relieve women of the stereotypes they face.

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Children’s Books by Washington Wives

It’s everywhere lately, and it’s only going to become more prominent: politics. In this big political year, the men — and women — of Washington are doing what they can to inform the people. But those people also include children. Now children’s books written by the wives of the politically powerful men in Washington, D.C. are all the rage, the newest political trend.

According to this article by The New York Times, former Vice President Joseph Biden’s wife, Jill, is publishing Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops under Simon & Schuster. The profits from her book will go toward charities for military families.

But Jill Biden isn’t the first to touch on this seemingly strange, but actually brilliant form of political campaigning. Laura Bush and Hilary Clinton have both written children’s books. So have Callista Gingrich, Lynne Cheney, and Carole Geithner, Timothy Geithner’s wife. And for that matter, it’s not just wives who are jumping on the bandwagon; it’s also daughters like Jenna Bush and Caroline Kennedy.

Most of the books have political undertones, which is why this election year, there seem to be more “Washington Wife Children’s Books” than ever. It’s all part of the process as Pamela Paul explains.

“Picture books and books for tweens are always a great way to put complex issues like politics into a context that young children can understand,” [HarperCollins Children’s Books editor-in-chief Kate Jackson] said. “They get the conversation going.” For Washington wives, writing a children’s book has become almost an expected spousal counterpart to the politician’s campaign tract or argument book. “Spouses have one mandatory obligation — ‘First Do No Harm’ — and one optional assignment: provide a positive magnifying force,” Mary Matalin, editor at large for Threshold Editions, a division of Simon & Schuster, and a former member of Dick Cheney’s staff, wrote in an e-mail. “Children’s books fulfill both.”

Not all the books are political — like Carole Geithner’s, for instance. But for those that are, it’s a smart move because it not only teaches children about politics in an understandable way; it also gives children something to talk about with their parents. And that makes those voting adults think even harder about who they’re voting for, and what those people represent.

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