I was always sort of a nerdy kid who liked school and did the right thing. I was never a rebel, or anything close to alternative. In fact, when the word “conformist” came up in a grade 10 English class, Alan Giagnavova, the rebelish odd duck who sat in front of me, turned in his seat, pointed at me and said, “You are a conformist.”
I never listened to really cool bands or followed the music scene. I am still not that person, but I’m trying to read outside my usual box. As a result, at 51, I have a number of memoirs by or about musicians on hold. Some are musicians I didn’t really listen to, and whose music I don’t necessarily like. Nonetheless I am interested in what they have to say and how they say it.
I can’t recommend Carrie Brownstein’s memoir, Hunger Makes me a Modern Girl enough.
She was, still is, a member of Sleator-Kinney. I first became aware of her on Portlandia. I’ve heard her interviewed on a couple of local programs and I was intrigued by the interviews and impressed by the memoir. The writing is all that I love in memoir: intelligent, honest and emotionally vulnerable.
Publisher’s Summary:Before Carrie Brownstein became a music icon, she was a young girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest just as it was becoming the setting for one the most important movements in rock history. Seeking a sense of home and identity, she would discover both while moving from spectator to creator in experiencing the power and mystery of a live performance. With Sleater-Kinney, Brownstein and her bandmates rose to prominence in the burgeoning underground feminist punk-rock movement that would define music and pop culture in the 1990s. They would be cited as “America’s best rock band” by legendary music critic Greil Marcus for their defiant, exuberant brand of punk that resisted labels and limitations, and redefined notions of gender in rock.
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is an intimate and revealing narrative of her escape from a turbulent family life into a world where music was the means toward self-invention, community, and rescue. Along the way, Brownstein chronicles the excitement and contradictions within the era’s flourishing and fiercely independent music subculture, including experiences that sowed the seeds for the observational satire of the popular television series Portlandia years later.
With deft, lucid prose Brownstein proves herself as formidable on the page as on the stage. Accessibly raw, honest and heartfelt, this book captures the experience of being a young woman, a born performer and an outsider, and ultimately finding one’s true calling through hard work, courage and the intoxicating power of rock and roll.
I think what I like best about the book is that it gives a real sense of what it as like to live in a world so unlike my own and it also clearly demonstrates the bands creative process. I don;t have to be a fan of her music to appreciate this fantastic memoir.