I have been really attracted to rock memoirs lately (Gregg Allman, Slash) and I knew I had to get to Carrie Brownstein‘s highly acclaimed, recently released memoir, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl. Edited from Goodreads:
Before Carrie Brownstein codeveloped and starred in the wildly popular TV comedy Portlandia, she was already an icon to young women for her role as a musician in the feminist punk band Sleater-Kinney. The band was a key part of the early riot grrrl and indie rock scenes in the Pacific Northwest, known for their prodigious guitar shredding and their leftist lyrics against war, traditionalism, and gender roles. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is the deeply personal and revealing narrative of Brownstein’s life in music, from ardent fan to pioneering female guitarist to comedic performer and luminary in the independent rock world. This book intimately captures what it feels like to be a young woman in a rock-and-roll band, from her days at the dawn of the underground feminist punk-rock movement that would define music and pop culture in the 1990s through today.
I initially borrowed Hunger from the library because I wasn’t sure whether I’d like it, since I’m not a fan of Sleater-Kinney and never have been. Punk in general has never resonated with me. I listened to a few of the albums she talks about while reading Hunger, but yeah. Not for me. The bass is really missing for me, and the singing style just isn’t to my taste. Oh well! This absolutely did not diminish my enjoyment of the book whatsoever. I ended up buying a copy to own.
Brownstein’s journey from quirky, performance-driven child to ultimate music fan to inadvertent rock star was instantly engaging and I found it hard to put down. She’s erudite and introspective, not gossipy or too self-indulgent, and it’s clear she’s in awe of her fellow musicians. Her gratitude for the people in her life and experiences shines through, but she’s honest about the stress and pressures she faced with her rising fame. I loved the parts on her creative process and reflections on being a woman in the music business. I think I would have really enjoyed this on audio too, but there were so many excellent points and quotes that I ended up reading and re-reading them over a second time. You’ll only read about her pre-Portlandia days here—save for a little bit about her family in the beginning and her pets at the end, it’s all about the music.
Bottom line: Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is essential reading if you love music, feminism, and creativity. Fans of Portlandia will enjoy learning about its star’s past, and even those who aren’t into Sleater-Kinney will appreciate and enjoy this captivating and charming memoir. I have a feeling this will be one of my best reads of the year.
Read from January 1 to 8, 2016.