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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating history and analysis, August 2, 2008
This review is from: Mae West: An Icon in Black and White (Hardcover)
First, two responses to several reviews...

1 - The reviewers who suggest that this book is all about proving that West was black have simply not read the book. Watts introduces the book with that rumor (and the rumor that she was a man)...and then MOVES ON. She's off that subject by the middle of the second page.

2 - This is an academic book, written by a history professor. It is not a fan-oriented biography about West. If you want a quick and easy read, this is NOT the book for you. Watts' writing style makes the book accessible to people who aren't scholars, but if you aren't comfortable with footnotes or references to literary and cultural theory, you may want to choose a different book.

On to my own review:

This is an impressive piece of scholarship. The amount of archival research done for this project is impressive. Watts does a fine job of showing how West's work and image were very much shaped by working-class, black, gay, and feminist ideals and cultural forms. What we want to see as wholly her self-creation (including her trademark line "Come up and see me sometime!") was absolutely informed by what she saw around her.

My only criticism (and hence, the 4 stars) is that I think Watts' analysis of West's appropriation of black culture is too generous. Watts does a grand job of talking about white performers who didn't think much about their consumption and those who just plain 'stole.' However, Watts works really hard to show that West was not one of them; I'm not so sure.
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