Women's movement

September 27, 2007|By Katy O'Donnell | Katy O'Donnell,Sun reporter

Women are taking center stage at this year's Baltimore Book Festival, but it wasn't the organizers' original intent.

Festival director Kathleen Hornig said the theme came about organically, but once planners noticed it, they encouraged it.

"We don't strive for a specific theme," Hornig said. "As we looked at the fall catalogs and what had come out and what was successful earlier in the year, it just seemed like an especially strong year for female authors."

Part of what spawned it was the success of last year's Ladies' Night Out event, an evening of hors d'oeuvres and chatting that returns this year.

The 12th annual festival will feature a number of prominent female authors, who will discuss their books on everything from dating to mothering to their high-powered careers.

Hornig said the featured women will discuss "somewhat disparate subjects, but ultimately they all encourage women to get the most out of their lives, whether it's in their careers, relationships, sex, fashion, all of the above."

A few notable authors discussed their work with us before the festival.

Raising a rap star

Ever dreamed of raising a rap star? Pick up tips from Donda West, mother of Kanye, when she participates in Sunday's "Lessons for our Children: Celebrity Parents Speak Out on Fortune, Fame, Education & Parenting" panel at the Literary Salon.

West, who published Raising Kanye: Life Lessons From the Mother of a Hip-Hop Superstar earlier this year, said the memoir of sorts has a "chapter in there for everybody."

"I wouldn't say that the book is necessarily a blueprint, unless somebody wants to use it as one," she said.

West ranks teaching her famously candid son "to speak the truth as he understands it" as one of the most important things she did in raising him.

She supported and defended her son during controversial points in his career when he did just that, including when, during a live NBC telecast of a fundraiser concert for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, he blurted out that "George Bush doesn't care about black people."

"There's not a lot of people in the world, I don't think, like Kanye in terms of him keeping it real," she said. "You never know how words can save a person's life, physically or otherwise. People like Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi or, in my view, Barack Obama, or Jesus Christ -- people whose job it is to tell the truth -- I see that in Kanye."

A `late bloomer'

Former Spin City writer and dating columnist Amy Cohen will discuss her memoir, The Late Bloomer's Revolution, when she joins the Ladies' Night Out panel tomorrow at the Literary Salon.

A self-diagnosed "serial dater" who always pictured herself married with children by the time she hit her 30s, Cohen says she was shocked when, in her late 30s, she lost her boyfriend, her job and her mother in the same year. She decided to write the book because "I needed my book when I was going through it myself."

"One of the things that I really struggled with at that time was my identity," she said. "My book is about discovering yourself when all those things you expected don't happen."

It was after one particularly nasty breakup that Cohen taught herself to ride a bike -- at 35. A true late bloomer in every sense, she tells women looking for love to "never stop believing, but realize that it might not fit your time frame."

She's gotten hundreds of letters from women who identified with her book. "What I found out writing my book is there are so many women like me," she said. "It's not easy to be a woman who hasn't made the same choices as everyone else. It's, `You're attractive -- what's wrong with you?' Because the assumption is, if you're single at a certain point, you must be a psycho, or difficult. Which isn't the case."

So does she agree with Publishers Weekly that she's poised to take over Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell's "legacy as the reigning observer of Manhattan dating life"?

Cohen laughs.

"I think my message is a little different."

Views from Iraq

ABC News' Martha Raddatz, just returned from her 14th visit to Iraq, will speak Sunday at the Literary Salon about her book, The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family. The book presents a detailed account of the pivotal first Iraqi insurgency on April 4, 2004, and its effects on the U.S. soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division and their families.

Raddatz was in Baghdad when she heard about the surprise attack on the platoon that had gone to patrol the Shiite slum of Sadr City for what they thought would be a routine community-outreach "babysitting mission."

The book alternates between the graphic detail of the 48-hour fight that killed eight Americans and wounded 70 more and stateside scenes of grim Army chaplains ringing doorbells as tense mothers and wives paced inside their homes.

Raddatz, a two-time Emmy winner who has worked as both the senior national security correspondent and the chief White House correspondent for ABC, has managed to balance a career with raising a family.

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