On the Shelf: Punk Rock Memoir

Getting back to the regular blogging thing after a month off for a (failed but plucky) NaNoWriMo attempt, catching up on some stuff for Crone Girls Press, and dealing with the Thanksgiving holiday and a load of weird seasonal distraction that dumped on me like a load of garbage down a cliff off a back road.

I’ve been away from reading for a little bit, but I did find myself on a memoir reading kick, specifically, a punk rock memoir reading kick. That’s what’s on the shelf this week, so kick back, turn up some Siouxsie and the Banshees, or maybe some Joan Jett or Patti Smith or Le Tigre, and settle in with one of these excellent reads.

As a quick note – I try to include links to the books I’m reading so you can pick up a copy if you feel so inspired. I’ve decided to start using links to Bookshop.org instead of my previous Amazon links. These aren’t affiliate links (although I’m looking into that), I just wanted to direct some dollars towards smaller and indie bookstores. If you want to read on Kindle, however, you should be able to find a copy over there.

Just Kids by Patti Smith

I started reading this on a recommendation from my brother-in-law, and I’m glad I picked it up. The book relates Patti Smith’s time in NYC, her relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and gives a glimpse into a world that doesn’t exist anymore except in memory and memoir. This is a fascinating dive into NYC as a place that fostered creativity and art even as spit up and chewed out many of those who came to find their scene. Patti Smith’s unique perspective and engaging writing style made the journey from cover to cover go far too quickly. This one goes up on the shelf to read again.

Violence Girl by Alice Bag

I’ve been meaning to get around to reading this book, and then forgetting, and then remembering, but when a writer friend posted a link to a series of punk rock memoirs in their group, I decided it was time to pick up a copy. When I was creating the character of Luz in the Rick Keller Project, I drew a lot from Alice Bag’s aesthetic, even if it meant taking a punk rocker from LA and giving her military experience as a helicopter pilot. Given that I’m currently finishing up the fourth book in the series (and expanding what used to be a novella-length inter-series offering that introduced Luz), I figured it was the perfect time to check this out.

The writing is compelling, as Bag is open and frank about the challenges she faced growing up. Abuse, poverty, an address that sent her to schools that many of her classmates couldn’t overcome, friends with drug issues, and a burning desire to make music and do art on her own terms and no one else’s–all of these make the book a page turner. It’s written in short vignettes, like photos in an album, or blog posts, leading the reader through Alice’s punk rock life. I definitely recommend this book to anyone with a love for West Coast punk rock. Or just someone who enjoys a good book.

Girls to the Front by Sara Marcus

I just started reading this book, so I don’t have much of a review or discussion except to say that with this book I’m finally reaching into the decade of my life when I started to become aware of things like punk rock, and women rockers, and that there were aspects of myself and my life I could only explore once I had a chance to head out to college (yes… the 90’s are my nostalgia decade.) My politics were more “NYU film student goes to the Matrix and then a goth club) than riot grrl, but the seeds were planted and reading this book brings back some memories. I’m looking forward to reading the rest!

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