Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


God, According to Madonna

Wendy Shanker’s personal religion

Print Email
Wendy Shanker(

On Erev Rosh Hashanah, about 50 people gathered in the Village apartment of writer Susan Shapiro (Overexposed; Speed Shrinking) to celebrate the publication of Wendy Shanker’s newest book, Are You My Guru? How Medicine, Meditation & Madonna Saved My Life. Shanker is probably best known for her first memoir, The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life, which described her struggles with her weight and her eventual acceptance of her size. But in this sequel, her newly beloved body strikes back: At 27, she is diagnosed with Wegener’s granulomatosis, a rare autoimmune disease that causes her body to attack her sinuses, lungs, and kidneys. Are You My Guru? narrates how Shanker clawed her way back to health with help from doctors, Eastern medicine, and her pop culture friends.

“Everything comes down to Buffy or Madonna,” she explained to me. “One of them said something smart about something. God speaks to you in the language you understand. Sometimes he speaks to me in Buffyverse and sometimes in Madonna language.” In fact, she used the singer’s songs’ names to title all of her chapters.

Not that Shanker was planning to listen to her iPod or sit at home watching Buffy DVDs the following days. She would be attending services at the East End Temple, listening to the sermons of Rabbi David Adelson, who according to her expansive definition of the term is also one of her gurus. “To me, a guru is a teacher,” she said. “A guru is somebody who takes you from a place of darkness to a place of light. You didn’t understand something and now you get it. Definitely, rabbis are gurus.”

Though Rabbi Adelson was likely preparing for the upcoming High Holidays, some of Shanker’s other teachers were present, including the astrologist featured in the memoir, Jenny Lynch, who was offering free readings. Since most of those present were writers of varying degrees of success, ranging from David Goodwillie, who recently received a good review from the New York Times for his novel American Subversive, to Shapiro’s New School students, I imagine that at least a few were asking Lynch to divine their publishing prospects.

It seemed that Madonna herself (the pop star, not the Christian saint) blessed the party. Mere hours before, Shanker’s close friend, Sam, was entering her office in Williamsburg when a large entourage approached her position. It was Madonna ‘n’ staff, scouting locations for a film. They asked to enter the building and have a look around. Sam sprung into action, racing up to her office and printing out the cover and first few pages of the book to give to her Madgesty, who thanked her and meticulously folded the.

Shanker, who had met her idol while working as Madonna’s talent liason at MTV, took the whole incident as an auspicious sign. Though Madonna tunes played through the evening, Shanker has yet to embrace her guru’s favored Kabbalah. “You know I have to wait one and a half more years until I’m 40,” she said. “I’m still a little too immature to study Kabbalah, but I have been doing some reading so I’ll be ready on my 40th birthday to write a check.” “Listen,” she added, “if you’re going to support something spiritual and strange it might as well be from your own.”

Are You My Guru? [Amazon]

Print Email

Great piece! Really enjoyed reading it.

bonnie bernstein says:

I had so much fun reading Dvora’s piece and the book, too!

What i don’t realize is in fact how you’re no longer really a lot more well-appreciated than you may be now. You’re very intelligent. You recognize therefore considerably in the case of this topic, produced me for my part believe it from a lot of numerous angles. Its like women and men don’t seem to be interested unless it is something to do with Girl gaga! Your own stuffs nice. At all times deal with it up!

Thank you for the sensible critique. Me & my neighbor were just preparing to do some research on this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I am very glad to see such wonderful information being shared freely out there.

Whats up! I just wish to give an enormous thumbs up for the good info you could have here on this post. I shall be coming again to your blog for more soon.

Somebody essentially help to make seriously articles I would state. This is the first time I frequented your website page and thus far? I amazed with the research you made to create this particular publish incredible. Wonderful job!


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

God, According to Madonna

Wendy Shanker’s personal religion

More on Tablet:

Klinghoffer at the Met

By Paul Berman — John Adams’s masterpiece is about an American Jew murdered by Palestinian terrorists, but the real opera is off stage