Madonna: A Rebel Life

Little, Brown. Oct. 2023. 880p. ISBN 9780316456470. $38. BIOG
Pulitzer Prize finalist Gabriel’s (Ninth Street Women) massive biography of singer Madonna follows her life from her Michigan childhood to the conclusion of her Madame X tour of 2019–20. The book devotes considerable space to Madonna’s companions and collaborators and offers an in-depth look at her work and inspirations. Her albums and tours receive song-by-song descriptions, with looks at the wider history of their eras, which results in a deep cultural context for Madonna’s career. Significant attention is given to her connection to LGBTQIA+ communities, her activism for HIV/AIDS, and her philanthropic efforts in Malawi. A minor flaw is that the author’s highly sympathetic view, effective at critiquing the persistent sexism and scaremongering that has dogged Madonna’s career, sometimes skims past more difficult criticisms that could have offered an even deeper understanding of her complexities as an individual and artist.
VERDICT Impressive in size and scope, the 880 pages of this tome might deter some readers. However, casual and hardcore fans of Madonna (or of pop music in general) will still benefit from making a beeline for this book. A vital pick for public libraries and institutions with collections on women artists or 20th- and 21st-century music and pop culture.
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