Honestly, I needed this right now. While her life wasn’t perfect, her writing is. This is a beautifully put together memoir.
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.
There are several things I loved about this memoir but nothing quite as much as the way the book opens. She begins with a perfect description of what it’s like to be a fan, to be a part of a fandom. As a fan of many things and a bit of a geek in general, I couldn’t have worded it better.
I loved the inclusion of the whole section on the ways they were interviewed as they got bigger and how no one could avoid mentioning that they were women and somehow make it about them being women more than being musicians or artists. I enjoyed that she included excerpts, allowing the reader to be annoyed with her but not necessarily admonishing those who had written them either.
I was always a bookish girl and could never relate to music the way that other people did, but I tried. This book made sense of a lot of it. The abandonment to the music and the way the abandonment was desirable, the vulnerability and connection required to create something together. I get the way those things are appealing. I also greatly appreciated the way Brownstein came back around more than once to the fact that so many things about what makes music great are the people that were with you when you experienced it.
I loved the way sexuality was handled in the book, neither glossing over the facts nor dwelling in the details. Sex and sexuality are so personal that I can’t imagine laying out these kinds of experiences for the world to hear, and then reading it back to them in your own voice. Still, it’s not something to be altogether missed when discussing a life. Relationships were described in their feeling and not as much in actions, which was stunning and beautiful and unusual.
Then there was the music. There was the descriptions of how the music came to be. Each album was different and came from a different place, the songs weren’t recited nor were the details laid meticulously out, but we were allowed to get a sense of where they came from. It was like describing the way it feels to be in a birthing room without the gory details of what the mother looks like as she goes through the process.
I listened to the audiobook, which Brownstein read herself in the studio and there was also an interview at the end. As always, I’m appreciative of an author who narrates her own story, particularly in a memoir. I feel like there’s more of a connection to be made than when someone else does it. Listening to it, I completely understand how this came to be one of the Our Shared Shelf choices. I missed listening to it with the book club because I had just gotten some books I’d been waiting for and those led right into WIT Month and then September turned into October. I’m just glad for the recommendation. This is not a book I would have thought to read without OSS.