Published Jan 27, 2016"Cerebral." "Quotidian." "Excoriating." "Peripatetic."
These aren't descriptors you'd typically expect to find in a rock'n'roll memoir. Then again, your typical rock star doesn't have a background in sociolinguistics and hasn't had a decade-long hiatus to reflect on her time with the band that brought her fame.
Sleater-Kinney triumphantly returned with No Cities to Love last year, following a break that found Carrie Brownstein exploring life as a writer, as the star of TV's Portlandia and as a musician outside of her iconic band. That step back also gave her the perspective necessary to craft Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl — the self-told story of her life leading up to and living in Sleater-Kinney.
Brownstein beautifully captures what it's like to be a young, impressionable music fan and traces her own transition from an anxious child, to an adoring suburban onlooker, to an impassioned young musician immersed in the Olympia punk scene, to finally forming Sleater-Kinney with her idol-turned-bandmate Corin Tucker. Brownstein writes level-headedly about the band's rise, careful to dispel any scandalous myths but offering intriguing insight into her relationship with music, the process behind each record, the heartbreaking disillusionment with touring and the physically and mentally painful realities of trying to salvage a life while on the road — then, finally, finding joy in it again.
It's a study in contrasts. Brownstein is keenly aware of her need for attention early in life, defiantly seeking the spotlight and striving to be seen and heard, while her parents — an anorexic mother who eventually leaves the family and a gay father who remains closeted into middle age — maintain a darker, more hidden existence. She finds power creating movement on stage with Sleater-Kinney, but seeks out stillness as soon as she returns home. Playing music serves as an emotional outlet for Brownstein, but takes a severe physical toll on her body. And when that outlet is unexpectedly but unavoidably taken away (like breaking while Tucker was pregnant or calling it quits in 2006 after a particularly gruelling European tour), an overwhelming restlessness and loss of selfhood creeps in.
Throughout, Brownstein writes sharply and analytically about highly emotional subject matter, but manages to sneak in a fair share of laugh-out-loud recollections that lend the book a definite warmth. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is an affecting glimpse into what it's like to live and learn in — and beyond — the realm of rock'n'roll. (Riverhead)