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Volunteer Andrea enjoys an evening at Busboys and Poets with essayists from Madonna and Me.

Madonna was part of my first all-nighter. I was twelve years old when my mother and I stayed up all night while she drove our family of five (three of them sleeping) from Southern California to the Grand Canyon. The car was a 1987 Hyundai hatchback. The space was tight. The air conditioning was non-existent. We rolled down the rear windows but kept the front windows shut up tight so that my mother and I could sing along with every song of the Like a Virgin album. That night, we listened to Madonna’s album eight times and arrived at the Grand Canyon in time for the sunrise.

Mothers featured prominently at Busboys and Poets last week when essayists read from their works in Madonna and Me. The editor of the compilation, Laura Barcella, said that most of the book’s essays were selected from approximately 300 received after an open call for work. In Madonna and Me, more than forty women write about Madonna’s influences on their lives along subject lines that range from sex to money, fashion, identity and beyond.

Four essayists took the stage at Busboys and Poets. Shawna Kenney, author of I Was a Teenage Dominatrix, spoke about faith and the struggle to express herself. Kelly Keenan Trumpbour relayed her own struggles to become a mother and explored Madonna’s links to motherhood, especially her name, and how Madonna’s mother shaped the young girl. Maria Raha, author of Cinderella’s Big Score, spoke about rebelliousness. Jamia Wilson shared her fascination with Madonna as it manifested against the backdrop of her own strong religious upbringing. “Madonna made religion fun,” Wilson said. She also admitted, “My relationship with Madonna is complicated.”

At the end of the reading, the editor and writers took questions from an audience of friends, supporters and those lucky enough to know what a great venue Busboys and Poets is for connecting with the writing community in Washington, D.C.

I never gave much thought to what Madonna was trying to be or to prove, but I have always been fascinated by how her work has been relevant for even longer than I have known all the words to all the songs on the Like a Virgin album.

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