Before Carrie Brownstein co-developed 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. Though Brownstein struggled against the music industry's sexist double standards, by 2006 she was the only woman to earn a spot on Rolling Stone readers' list of the '23 Most Underrated Guitarists of All-Time.' 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."
This book was not what I expected it was going to be. The first time I saw Carrie Brownstein at work was when the show Portlandia was just starting to pick up. I was not even remotely aware of Carrie's past in the music industry. It was fascinating to read about, especially because I don't have experience in creating a band and rising to any amount of success.
One big takeaway I have from this book is how life can be so different for women who create rock music over the men who create it. I feel like I should have known this, but rock music is very male-centered. I didn't realize that Carrie Brownstein and the rest of Sleater-Kinney and other all-female rock bands really had to carve their place in the world. I guess I'm in a position where I can take this for granted because I can benefit from their music now and dabble. So I appreciated Carrie's honesty in the real struggles that she went to to make this dream happen for herself.
I think one more important take-away was talked about closer to the end of her memoir. After Carrie had been part of Sleater-Kinney for a while, she had more and more health complications come up and that made it hard for her to continue with Sleater-Kinney. As hard as this was to read that something so important to her was coming to an end (largely by necessity), it was still a hopeful ending because she was able to find her next sort of life project, or professional project. It's nice to know that when your big goal is accomplished or when it's no longer possible to continue with that dream, there can be something else that comes after. Life is not over.
I think this is a read meant for those who are really into this feminist rock scene (I was very much an outsider while reading this), but nevertheless, I feel like I got a few gold nuggets out of this read.
I give 'Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl':