"Hot Mamalah" Left me Lukewarm.

I went into Hot Mamalah: The Ultimate Guide for Every Woman of the Tribe with an open mind. The press release told me to “Surrender to the kitsch,” and the hot pink cover and blinged out font definitely promised kitsch.  In the introduction, author Lisa Alcalay Klug compares life to food, “an amazing buffet containing one scrumptious course after the next.” And the book feels like a buffet — it’s a collection of different interesting things — but it lacks focus. It was a buffet where the dishes are tasty, but together they feel jumbled and disparate. Even after reading it, I still have no real idea what the book is supposed to be about.
And I don’t think the book knows what it’s supposed to be about, either. It’s an anthology of essays, how-tos, and recipes, but it doesn’t really come together in a way that elevates any of the parts beyond being parts. It feels like a collection of posts to a blog I’d probably read, but as a book that’s supposed to be an “Ultimate Guide,” it doesn’t seem to know where it’s going. I’m not sure the book knows who its audience is, either. It seems written for a young woman, but the cultural references feel dated, relying too heavily on Carrie Bradshaw and Joan Rivers for anyone under 40.
Look, I’m from South Florida. I had big hair and a nameplate necklace. I’m familiar with the trappings of the Jewish American Princess stereotype. I get it — the ladies love shopping, shoes, chocolate, cocktails, we hate paying retail and PMS. It doesn’t offend me. It does feel stale. The stereotype has been mined to death, and I think that to rely so heavily on it with no greater purpose — to challenge it, to unpack it, even to approach it from a new angle — seems lazy. When the entirety of a page (57, in this case) is a banner proclaiming, “PEACE, LOVE, SHOES,” I just have to ask, “Aren’t we past this?”
None of this is to say there aren’t good parts. There are a few recipes that I can’t wait to try. I want anything called “The Ultimate Guide” to teach me something new, and I did get some great tips (I did not know about adding seltzer to pancake batter and literally, breakfast in my house has been forever changed). If I ran across these tips on the internet, I’d probably repost some of them on Facebook. But it didn’t work for me as a book except as a novelty gift or bathroom read.
I was ready to surrender to the kitsch, but I expected some substance with it, or at least some fresh, new kitsch. Without that, the shtick just isn’t original or compelling enough to carry an entire book. “Hot Mamalah” is an anthology of the superficial, and while I expected some irony, the “wink” to let me know that that this book was in on the joke, I’m not sure the book was in on it after all.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: TC Jewfolk received a free copy of ”Hot Mamalah” in the hope that we would mention it on TC Jewfolk. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”