Project Description

Photo by Aija Lehtonen/

What I Learned About Life, Fame, Art, and All the Ways You Can Lose Your Mom
A memoir by Whit Hill

“A gracefully written memoir filled with fascinating portraits of college days and coming of age and love of family—and what it means to be a woman in this celebrity culture. The narrative is rich, generous, and very smart. It’s refreshing to spend time with this wonderful book.” —Patricia Bosworth

Imagine that a celebrity helps define your emerging adulthood—but that the celebrity in question won’t become famous until years after the friendship has run its course. Then imagine it’s 1977 and you are entering the dance program at the University of Michigan. You are a confident, liberated young artiste as well as a “good girl,” never wanting to lose control. Then nineteen-year-old Madonna Ciccone becomes your roommate, and your world spins off its axis.

At first Whit feels no flush of warmth and trust, no recognition of a kindred spirit in Madonna—if anything, she feels wary. But together they catwalk railroad embankments down to the Huron River to swim naked with strangers. They flirt and hitchhike and shoplift candy and magazines. When Whit’s mother calls, Madonna listens carefully, perhaps trying to puzzle the errant justice that had taken her mother but spared Whit’s. But for all their competitiveness—they were dancers, comparing themselves in mirrors—there was also much support. There were conversations to build each other up, to figure out men and life, and to understand their art and themselves.

My Year with Madonna is not a tell-all exposé: rather, it is a wise, funny, and bittersweet memoir of an artist’s early years. For Whit, sharing the stage with a future star becomes a prism for exploring the loss and retrieval of youthful innocence, the fragile dynamics of friendship, the unique demands of being a female artist, and the profound impact of the presence, and loss, of any young woman’s mother.

Read an Excerpt