Desperately Seeking Something: A Memoir about Movies, Mothers, and Material Girls

Susan Seidelman

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Book cover for Desperately Seeking Something: A Memoir about Movies, Mothers, and Material Girls
Book cover for Desperately Seeking Something: A Memoir about Movies, Mothers, and Material Girls

Desperately Seeking Something: A Memoir about Movies, Mothers, and Material Girls

Desperately Seeking Something: A Memoir about Movies, Mothers, and Material Girls

Susan Seidelman

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The funny and insightful first-person story of the trailblazing movie director of the 80s and 90s whose fearless punk drama, "Smithereens" became the first American indie film to compete at Cannes, and smash hit "Desperately Seeking Susan" led to a four-decade career in film.

Starting out in the mid-70s, a time when few women were directing movies, Susan was determined to become a filmmaker. She longed to tell stories about the unrepresented characters she wanted to see on screen: unconventional women in unusual circumstances, needing to express themselves and maintain their autonomy.

Her genre-blending films reflect a passion for classic Hollywood storytelling, mixed with a playful New Wave spirit, informed by her years living in downtown NYC.

Seidelman continued to shape American pop culture well into the nineties, directing the pilot of the iconic TV series "Sex And The City," focusing her sharp lens on the changing place of women in American society and helping to fundamentally reshape our self-image in ways that are still felt today.


Raised in the safe cocoon of 1960s suburbia, Susan Seidelman wasn't a misfit, an oddball, or an outlier. She was a "good-girl" with a little bit of "bad" hidden inside. A restless teenager, she dreamed of escape and reinvention, a theme that would play out in her films as well as in her own life. Because she loved stories, a high school guidance counselor suggested she become a librarian, but she had her sights set further afield. In 1973, she left the Philly suburbs, enrolled at NYU's burgeoning graduate film school and moved to NYC's Lower East Side. There, she found herself in the right place at the right time. New York City was falling apart, but out of that chaos came a burst of creative energy whose effects are still felt in American pop culture today. Downtown became a vibrant playground where film, music, performance and graffiti art cross-pollinated and where Seidelman chronicled the lives of the colorful misfits, oddballs, dreamers and schemers she met there.

It's all in DESPERATELY SEEKING SOMETHING. Seidelman not only has a keen perspective on the times she's lived through -- from her Twiggy-obsessed girlhood, through the Women's Lib movement of the early 70s, the punk scene of the late 70s, Madonna-mania of the 80s, to the dot-com "greed is good" 90s, and beyond--she tells great stories.

About the Author

SUSAN SEIDELMAN, a graduate of NYU Grad Film School, began her career in the 1980s when Smithereens became the first American Independent film to be accepted into the Cannes Film Festival. Her next movie, Desperately Seeking Susan, starring Madonna and Rosanna Arquette, was a critical and commercial success. She has directed dozens of other films starring actors such as Meryl Streep, Brooke Shields, and Sally Field, as well as the first four episodes of Sex and the City. She lives in New Jersey.

Critical Reviews

"Interwoven with fascinating behind-the-scenes detail, Seidelman vividly traces the evolution of her artistic vision, combining the strong, feisty heroines of classic screwball comedies with the playful, postmodern spirit of New Wave film. It's an enthralling look at a trailblazing filmmaker's perseverance and vision." - Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Seidelman offers a revealing peek into her four-decade career in Hollywood. The author delivers an unguarded portrait of her life, telling it her way. Seidelman's films have always reflected her hopes for a more just society and a world that allows women to tell their stories; her book also demonstrates those themes." - Kirkus

"Susan Seidelman has directed and created some of the most iconic and audacious characters of our time--her new book is a dazzling encapsulation of them and of her life's work. Part time capsule and part memoir--her gritty "I'll show you" determination will inspire any woman who wants to make her mark on the world. 'Desperately Seeking Something' is a super-relatable, unputdownable tour de force. I just love this book!"--Marisa Acocella, New York Times bestselling author of CANCER VIXEN

"Susan Seidleman has long held my awe as a brilliant filmmaker. Now she's won my admiration as a superb memoirist by taking me in her footsteps and through her eyes into shared territories; 50s childhood, 60s mod girlhood, DIY punk culture, the earliest wild west days of American indie film, her riveting path through the ups and downs of this profession behind the camera, and her honest reveal of the struggle women artists face when balancing commitment to their work and to their families while still having fun with it all. This is the book we've been desperately seeking; you'll find bits of yourself in her exhilarating journey." - Allison Anders, filmmaker

"Susan Seidelman's riveting memoir is like one of her films -- engrossingly quirky, broadly entertaining, an invaluable document of an era in filmmaking, and frequently totally surprising. What a joy when one of your favorite filmmakers writes one of your new favorite books."-Matthew Rettemund, Encyclopedia Madonnica

Publishing Information

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pub date: 2024-06-18
Length: 368 pages

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