Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl – Carrie Brownstein
Final Thoughts: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Carrie Brownstein is arguably more known to people my age as the funny female half to Fred Armisen on Portlandia, giving hipsters everywhere a uniquely humorous voice. It’s highly possible that I’m just a rock-dweller, but I had no idea Sleater-Kinney was an all-female band, let alone an amazing post-Riot Grrrl punk band fronted by Candace from Women & Women First. Part of me feels satisfied by not knowing that Sleater-Kinney is a “girl band”, because in her autobiography, Brownstein clearly states that she never set out to be in just a “girl band.”
Brownstein grew up in the Pacific Northwest, hopping around Olympia, Seattle, and Redmond, Washington. She tells her own fiercely personal story of her entrance into the music scene of the ’90’s with passion, nostalgia, and 20-20 hindsight. She often speaks of what it was like to make the transition from fan to participant, turning observations into applications and creating a reality made of vision. She makes me remember what it was like to be a raving fan of a band, to attach yourself so vehemently to their lyrics, and to feel the heartbeat of someone else’s experiences and feeling sync up with your own. She talks about taking all of that enthusiasm and vulnerability, and channeling it back towards her own audience.
I grew up going to shows around Chicago, and I’ve been quite the fangirl in my day over the bands I saw, and I understand what Brownstein means when she says that “to become a fan of something, to open and change, is a move of deliberate optimism, curiosity, and enthusiasm.”
The novel is a huge, intertwined history of a traveling band with a thousand moving parts. Brownstein navigates the name-dropping of the countless people she met along the way with grace, making it impressively easy on the reader to follow along. The nonlinear chronology of a vast amount of memories was occasionally hard to place in history’s time frames, but the amount of content is dealt with in an organized, fluid, and literary skill. Aside from this novel being relevant and emotionally engaging, it’s also just simply cool. Sleater-Kinney emerged in an amazing era of transition between grunge and indie, and their roots are completely entrenched in the vast history of punk. The band was part of a genre that ushered in change between the centuries. She name drops the bands she met on their later shows, when bands like The Black Keys and The White Stripes were small-scale show openers. Furthermore, they were an amazing fragment of a fiercely socially-conscious and feminist scene, before third- and fourth-wave feminism were even a widespread political cornerstone, and in the year 2018, this reflection is powerful.
Brownstein is totally open to us in her novel. She relays her influences, her fears, her anxiety, her guilt, and her deeply personal memories, all the while inviting us to take a seat on her Portland couch and look at photos of her numerable pets. Brownstein holds our hand as we jump into a pensieve, and travel through the unafraid, unwavering, and unbelievable era of Sleater-Kinney.