Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

From a leader of feminist punk music at the dawn of the riot-grrrl era, a candid and deeply personal look at life in rock and roll. 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-...

Title:Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl
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Edition Language:English

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl Reviews

  • Diane

    What a fantastic music memoir! Carrie Brownstein writes beautifully about her development as an artist and how she became a successful musician.

    Carrie grew up in the suburbs of Seattle, Washington, and she started playing the guitar at a young age. She says she was an anxious and melodramatic child, but she loved to perform. In high school she started playing with bands, and eventually formed Sleater-Kinney, which Time magazine once described as America's best rock band. The book covers Carrie'

    What a fantastic music memoir! Carrie Brownstein writes beautifully about her development as an artist and how she became a successful musician.

    Carrie grew up in the suburbs of Seattle, Washington, and she started playing the guitar at a young age. She says she was an anxious and melodramatic child, but she loved to perform. In high school she started playing with bands, and eventually formed Sleater-Kinney, which Time magazine once described as America's best rock band. The book covers Carrie's growth as a musician and her experiences with Sleater-Kinney.

    One of the most memorable stories is that Carrie was romantically involved with singer Corin Tucker, and there was an awkward phone call from Carrie's father when a national magazine published news of their relationship after they had already broken up.

    There were also some good sections on how frustrating it was to be labeled as a "girl band," and on how often reporters would ask about it.

    The prose in this memoir is striking, and I was not surprised when Carrie mentioned she had considered getting a Master of Fine Arts degree — she is a lovely writer. The sections that were most moving were when she described her strained relationship with her parents, and her frustrations about her various illnesses on tour (she had severe allergic reactions, and once she even suffered a shingles outbreak).

    If you are a Sleater-Kinney fan, or if you like punk rock or riot grrrl music, you will probably enjoy this book. Her stories reminded me of how much fun it was to be a young adult in the 1990s, in part because of the great music we shared.

    However, if you picked up this book hoping for some behind-the-scenes stories about the TV show "Portlandia," you will be disappointed because it's barely mentioned. This book is more about Carrie's coming of age and is focused on her musicianship. I listened to this on audio, and at the end there was a bonus interview with Carrie, in which she says that she never could have successfully collaborated with Fred Armisen on Portlandia if she hadn't first learned how to be a musician and work with other artists.

    This was an enjoyable and insightful read, and I highly recommend it to music fans.

    "My story starts with me as a fan. And to be a fan is to know that loving trumps being beloved. All the affection I poured into bands, into films, into actors and musicians, was about me and about my friends. Once, in high school, I went to see the B-52s. I pressed myself against the barrier until bruises darkened my ribs, thrilled to watch Kate Pierson drink from a water bottle, only to have my best friend tell me that to her the concert wasn't about the band — it was about

    , it was about the fact that we were there together, that the music itself was secondary to our world, merely something that colored it, spoke to it. That's why all those records from high school sound so good. It's not that the songs were better — it's that we were listening to them with our friends, drunk for the first time on liqueurs, touching sweaty palms, staring for hours at a poster on the wall, not grossed out by carpet or dirt or crumpled, oily bedsheets. These songs and albums were the best ones because of how huge adolescence felt then, and how nostalgia recasts it now."

    "Everyone who plays music needs to have a moment that ignites and inspires them, calls them into the world of sound and urges them to make it. And I suppose this form of witness could happen aurally; perhaps it's as easy as hearing an Andy Gill riff or a Kim Gordon cadence and knowing intuitively how that all works. Then you form those sounds yourself, with your own hands and your own voice. Or maybe you see it on a video, in footage of a musician who finally translates and unlocks what you thought was a mystery. For me, however, I needed to be there ... I needed to press myself up against small stages, risking crushed toes, bruised sides, and the unpredictable undulation of the pit, just so I could get a glimpse of who I wanted to be."

    "In those years I was in awe of the bravery I saw around me. I never quite felt brave myself then, but I watched a lot of fearless things happen. I could play at bravery in the songs, I could play at sexiness or humor, long before I could actually be or embody any of those things. Sleater-Kinney allowed me to try on so many roles. I think the music I both played and listened to, along with the unmasked, confessional writing in the fanzines, really created a vocabulary for me. Sometimes the works were smart or pity, profound, poetic, and often they were really messy. But they formed a boundary and a foundation for a lot of girls who had been undone by invisibility, including myself. Girls wrote and sang about sexism and sexual assault, about shitty bosses and boyfriends, about fucking and wanting to fuck. They called out friends and relatives and bands and businesses, corporations and governments for what they felt were injustices. It was a very reactionary time."

    "There is the music itself, and then there is the ongoing dialogue about how it feels. The two seem to be intertwined and also inescapable. To this day, because I know no other way of being or feeling, I don't know what it's like to be a woman in a band — I have nothing else to compare it to. But I will say that I doubt in the history of rock journalism and writing any man has been asked, 'Why are you in an all-male band?'"

  • Lisa

    Terrific: sharp, smart, introspective, complex, funny, and sad. What you (I) want in a music memoir—a little creative process, a little zeitgeist of the times, a lot of self-awareness without too much self-indulgence. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that Brownstein can really write, but it made me happy. Real review to follow.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I actually am not overly familiar with the band Sleater Kinney. Look, I grew up in the northwest in the 90s but because I was overly sheltered and only "allowed" to listen to Christian music, the most daring I got was sneaking a listen to Z100 or secretly borrowing Ani DiFranco and Lilith Fair level music from friends. Sleater Kinney is more a product of the grunge-riot-grrrl bands that would have been more on the periphery as it was, and I am full of sorrow to say I lack any personal experience

    I actually am not overly familiar with the band Sleater Kinney. Look, I grew up in the northwest in the 90s but because I was overly sheltered and only "allowed" to listen to Christian music, the most daring I got was sneaking a listen to Z100 or secretly borrowing Ani DiFranco and Lilith Fair level music from friends. Sleater Kinney is more a product of the grunge-riot-grrrl bands that would have been more on the periphery as it was, and I am full of sorrow to say I lack any personal experience with the music when it was such a significant thing. Woe, woe is me.

    Still, I loved listening to Carrie talk about her personal journey and more about her band's development and struggles. If you come into this book expecting to hear about Portlandia, you won't at all. This is about Carrie the musician. I was pleasantly surprised by her very literary tone. It was bizarre that she kept mentioning Miranda July near the end, since she was the author and narrator of the last audiobook I finished. If you listen to the audio, the Q&A at the end is great, because she talks about favorite authors, books, bands, etc.

    This is a long quote, which I transcribed, but I wanted an example of what she is able to capture about this era in music:

    Okay the first thing that stood out was the really loud librarians comment, obviously, but I also am so intrigued by the idea of a band where everyone would stand around in silence and listen really intently. Brainy, political stuff. Do we have anything like this now? Certainly not in the mainstream.

    And of course, a description of the unique nature of the northwest and its impact on music in that era.

    Sleater Kinney broke up for a while but it sounded like they were back together and tentatively working on some songs when this book went to print. ETA: They have performed and I even found a full concert in

    .

  • Maxwell

    At once an honest depiction of otherness and an interesting examination of the 1990's music scene--especially punk rock in the PNW.

    , the title coming from a Sleater-Kinney track, covers Brownstein's youth and emergence into a career in music. She's genuine, indulgent and witty. Though I know very little about the Riot grrrl scene, and I'll be honest,

    very little about it, her writing was superb and infused the narrative with something quite special. I mostly kn

    At once an honest depiction of otherness and an interesting examination of the 1990's music scene--especially punk rock in the PNW.

    , the title coming from a Sleater-Kinney track, covers Brownstein's youth and emergence into a career in music. She's genuine, indulgent and witty. Though I know very little about the Riot grrrl scene, and I'll be honest,

    very little about it, her writing was superb and infused the narrative with something quite special. I mostly know Brownstein from her hit comedy show

    , which she never talks about in the memoir (and that's not a complaint). Instead she focuses on her music, her true passion, and all the experiences that come along with finding yourself as you find your place in the industry. Her examination of fandoms and the feeling of home that can bring were exceptionally resonant in my own experiences. And I appreciated her honesty and grit. She didn't shy away from telling it like it is while maintaining a gentleness and respect for the topics she dives into. I think if you're a particular fan of the 90's punk scene you'd be even more inspired and interested in this book. I found it to be wonderfully written, insightful and pleasant to read, but didn't take away much from it.

  • Snotchocheez

    It pains me to say I'm

    a Sleater-Kinney fan. (I own exactly one of their seven albums--2002's "One Beat", given to me by a fellow "college rock"-aficionado who insisted I

    be a Sleater-Kinney fan--but could only find sonic love with their anthemic "Far Away"...and nothing else). Don't know why I have had this total disconnect with them. They just always...I don't know...intimidated me? I'd read about their successes as seminal (if unwitting) pioneers of the Riot Grrrl punk rock moveme

    It pains me to say I'm

    a Sleater-Kinney fan. (I own exactly one of their seven albums--2002's "One Beat", given to me by a fellow "college rock"-aficionado who insisted I

    be a Sleater-Kinney fan--but could only find sonic love with their anthemic "Far Away"...and nothing else). Don't know why I have had this total disconnect with them. They just always...I don't know...intimidated me? I'd read about their successes as seminal (if unwitting) pioneers of the Riot Grrrl punk rock movement, and admired their tenacity from afar, but they always felt like a club I wasn't invited to.

    So, you ask, why did I even bother reading

    anyway?

    Okay, I admit it. I have a

    (but barely concealed) crush on Carrie Brownstein. (Actually, Corin and Janet, too. Never could 'get' their caterwauling, bass-less stylings, but their omnipresent photos in all the music rags extolling them to the heavens made me swoon. I so wanted to share my friends' love, and outwardly pretended to when accompanying them to a S-K gig in LA in 2003, but only went to secretly entertain my crush...and watch the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, their opening act.) Eight years later, way after Sleater-Kinney disbanded, I was floored to discover Carrie Brownstein the sketch comedienne, whose

    made me swoon again, this time with giddy laughter. (The most laughter elicited from sourpuss moi since SNL's mid-90s heyday.) So, yeah, it was pretty much imperative I read her memoir, despite my mixed feelings about Sleater-Kinney musically.

    Alas, there's nary a mention of the

    era of Ms. Brownstein's life (perhaps her next memoir? Pretty please?!) What you

    get, however, is an absorbing, erudite glimpse of a girl's hungered 2 decade-long voyage toward self-fulfillment and incidental musical prominence. Even the most jaded readers of a certain generation (most likely GenX-Yers) will relish and relate to her account of finding herself through music, and her subsequent joys of stardom (and woes of pressure to succeed). The book's unintended benefit for me (thanks to its timing with Sleater-Kinney's return from their looong hiatus): I feel like I'm finally invited to the club, and can better appreciate what one influential critic once deemed "The Best Rock Band in America".

    (And the pictures are super-yummy, too!)

  • Sharon

    This isn't a book for readers looking for voyeuristic thrills from their memoirs. It's a passable music memoir, certainly of interest to all the Sleater-Kinney fans out there, but even they will be disappointed (as I was) by a book that feels too thin.

    It takes a while for this work to hit its stride. The first third is spent recounting Brownstein's early years. This is the least compelling section of the memoir, poorly paced and thin. There's little depth to the content, and it is horrifically o

    This isn't a book for readers looking for voyeuristic thrills from their memoirs. It's a passable music memoir, certainly of interest to all the Sleater-Kinney fans out there, but even they will be disappointed (as I was) by a book that feels too thin.

    It takes a while for this work to hit its stride. The first third is spent recounting Brownstein's early years. This is the least compelling section of the memoir, poorly paced and thin. There's little depth to the content, and it is horrifically overwritten. Throughout this memoir, its evident that Brownstein has a thesaurus-like knowledge of the English language without any real mastery of it. The book is riddled with big words that lack any real punch because they're the norm, and this is most evident as Brownstein talks about her childhood.

    Things get better once SK comes into the picture, as that's really what this book is--not the memoir of Carrie Brownstein, but the memoir of Sleater-Kinney. Even then, it feels more like biography than memoir. Sure, we have a somewhat self-deprecating account of Brownstein's struggles with depression and anxiety, but those feel almost rote. You're not going to learn much new about SK in this book. At times, I felt like I was reading the SK wikipedia page with minor edits to show Brownstein's perspective.

    There is some insight into the artistic workings of SK, but not a lot. Each album has its own chapter, where we learn about the songwriting and recording process, along with a few anecdotes about the associated tours. Sometimes individual songs are mentioned--notably missing is 'Modern Girl', a song whose lyrics gave this book their title, but somehow didn't warrant a single sentence in the meat of the book itself.

    There is little detail of Brownstein's life after SK broke up and before they got back together. There's a single mention of Portlandia, and a chapter detailing her work with Portland's animal shelters. The book closes with a brief discussion about SK's most recent tour and album.

    I'm a fan of Carrie Brownstein and of Sleater-Kinney, and I was disappointed. It's a quick, at times interesting read, but it doesn't feel rewarding. If you're into Brownstein's work, stick to her music and work on Portlandia. She's a much better musician and comedian than she is a memoirist

  • Elizabeth

    First, I LOVE SLEATER-KINNEY.

    I was so excited to read this and what an excellent read! Some might be disappointed- this is not a typical memoir. Carrie Brownstein is one cerebral lady. She tells a story that supports the idea that art saves lives. She does not dish. Not even once. Instead she explains how Sleater-Kinney saved her. She explains about tour. She shows us her regard for Corin Tucker & Janet Weiss. And she tells us how she broke up the band.

    The feminist punk scene & riot gr

    First, I LOVE SLEATER-KINNEY.

    I was so excited to read this and what an excellent read! Some might be disappointed- this is not a typical memoir. Carrie Brownstein is one cerebral lady. She tells a story that supports the idea that art saves lives. She does not dish. Not even once. Instead she explains how Sleater-Kinney saved her. She explains about tour. She shows us her regard for Corin Tucker & Janet Weiss. And she tells us how she broke up the band.

    The feminist punk scene & riot grrrl music was such a great time to live here in the Pacific Northwest. This book pays homage to that time.

    LOVED.

  • Alex Laughlin

    I love Carrie but this was mad overwritten.

  • Joe Valdez

    This 2015 memoir by Carrie Brownstein, co-founder of grunge rock trio Sleater-Kinney (and known far and wide today for the IFC sketch comedy series

    she acts in, writes and created with Fred Armisen) is devoted purely to Brownstein's emergence from uncool teenager and suburban music geek in Redmond, Washington to recording and touring with what a critic at Time Magazine called in 2002 the best rock 'n' roll band in America. Rather than promoting Sleater-Kinney's import as artists or bl

    This 2015 memoir by Carrie Brownstein, co-founder of grunge rock trio Sleater-Kinney (and known far and wide today for the IFC sketch comedy series

    she acts in, writes and created with Fred Armisen) is devoted purely to Brownstein's emergence from uncool teenager and suburban music geek in Redmond, Washington to recording and touring with what a critic at Time Magazine called in 2002 the best rock 'n' roll band in America. Rather than promoting Sleater-Kinney's import as artists or blowing smoke around her legacy, Brownstein delivers a stoic, tough and vibrantly unapologetic account of her singular experiences as a rock artist.

    was a treat for myself after taking ten days (though it felt longer) to finish reading Edith Wharton's

    . I read and reviewed Brownstein's book on Super Bowl Sunday, and in addition to tending a sweet tooth I have for performing arts memoirs -- studying how artists create and hone an act and later, reconcile creativity and freedom with commercial success -- I amused myself by picturing Miss Lily Bart traveling ninety years into the future to hang out with Brownstein. Not even the most visionary science fiction author of Wharton's age could have imagined suburbs, MTV or riot grrrls by the end of the century.

    There are cultural trends that have emerged from my generation, Generation X, that I'm critical of, and with reason. Carrie Brownstein passes every metric for what I'd consider a hero. I could identify with a lot of her experiences, namely the pull of conformity as a knee jerk reaction to a fractured family (her mother was hospitalized for an eating disorder when Brownstein was 14 and a year later left her father, who came out of the closet to his daughter in 1998.) I grew up in the suburbs without a cause or culture and thought I was most uncool person in my postal district. I still kind of do. Brownstein's triumphs knock all those excuses down like dominoes.

    The biggest impact Brownstein made on me was her willingness to unsettle herself again and again throughout her life; creatively, emotionally, moving to a new city each time she could sense she was in danger of settling into a pattern; relocating to Olympia to try to get in a band, to Melbourne to record her first album and to Portland to shake loose feelings of peer pressure. These life changes were initiated regardless of what she would have to give up or how foreign her new environment was. In doing this, she strips away the pageantry of being a touring musician and instead shows how much work creativity is and how intimidating it should be.

    My favorite passage of the book is this one:

    Scroll down to my incessant status updates for more awesome quotes from this book, which I highly recommend for anyone with more than a passing interest in performing arts. In all honesty, I've never heard a Sleater-Kinney single -- I was obsessed with hip hop when grunge rock was big -- or even watched a full episode of

    , but don't feel a reader needs to be a Brownstein superfan in order to enjoy the book. As a postscript, she reveals what recording artists who take breaks from music at the age of 35 do with their life; they volunteer for their state humane society and inevitably adopt dogs and cats.

  • Eve

    I’ve been floundering in my reading pool, trying to stay afloat and not sink into a reading slump. I can usually tell I’m headed that way when it takes me days to decide what to read next. I’m an unapologetic mood reader, and a very recent bout of

    I’ve been floundering in my reading pool, trying to stay afloat and not sink into a reading slump. I can usually tell I’m headed that way when it takes me days to decide what to read next. I’m an unapologetic mood reader, and a very recent bout of shingles has made me super impatient and fastidious about reading material.

    I had no intention of inflicting my bad mood on this book that I’ve been looking forward to for so long. When I got an email from my library that the audiobook was finally available to download, I balked! I had two weeks to either read it or get on the long waiting list…again. The first paragraph instantly hooked me though, and I just couldn’t stop listening.

    Boy could I empathize! I haven’t been gardening, cleaning house or otherwise occupying my hands while listening. I’ve been lying in bed (on my side) staring at the wall. It’s so good that it’s like watching an enthralling, well-written movie. Carrie has such an articulate way of expressing herself both in interviews and not surprisingly in the written word. Though I’ve never listened to Sleater-Kinney, the band that put her on the map, I still found this book transportive and an iconic tribute to an important era.

    Her constant struggle to find a place and meaning in life really touched me; it made me feel like I wasn’t alone. Her personal account of her family life was also touching; who’d have thought? This was already a 4-star read, but the final part of the book shot it into 5-star status, especially the chapter about her pets and their significance in her life. This audio edition had a brief interview with the author at the end, and it only endeared her to me all the more. She is a voracious reader, and there were a few authors she mentioned both in the book and interview that I seriously need to get to sooner than later. FYI, she’s mostly into fiction. That’s kind of refreshing. So if you’re planning on reading this, you won’t be disappointed! If you think it may not be for you, you’d be surprised. Give it a go; it's hard not to be charmed by Carrie.


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