Good memoir is revealing. Good memoir is insightful. Good memoir is reflective and goes beyond a simple retelling of the past. Good memoir is well written. Carrie Brownstein’s [Sleater-Kinney, Portlandia] memoir, Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl, ticks all of those boxes and then some.
Brownstein faces her history with a steely candor and then reveals it to the entire world, whether she’s talking about her family history, her relationships, her friendships or her work. She is lucid, direct, unflinching. In the first 25 pages you want to run inside the book and try to offer her some insulation from what the world is throwing at her. (This will happen many more times.)
Brownstein tries to see the shades of grey in as many situations as possible. She finds pity and compassion when discussing parts of her life where those niceties were not extended to her in return. She takes the reader through multiple processes where she felt one way and then changed her mind later. This is not something that happens often in memoirs written by musicians.
The most enjoyable — and revelatory — parts of the book are when Carrie manages to articulate what Sleater-Kinney meant to her, sharing lyrics and memories like she was a fan of her own band (and in some ways, she probably is). This is one of the few areas of the book where I wish she had gone a little deeper; maybe the Portlandia fans would have skipped that part but those who wanted to hear more insight about the band and its creative process and especially the process of writing lyrics would have been thrilled.
The story is also, ultimately, inspirational. It’s inspiring to know now about Brownstein’s self-doubt (sometimes enormous) and look at everything she managed to accomplish in spite of it (or perhaps because of it). It’s one thing for an artist to be self-deprecating in an interview, but when she relates stories of errors and personal failings in her own words, it has a profound impact on the reader, whether grown-up or 15 years old and sitting in their bedroom listening to punk rock for the first time. Carrie has written a story that will be relatable across that spectrum, which is a remarkable accomplishment. Brownstein is an amazing talent, and this book as valid and essential as the 600+ page tomes authored by any of the musicians who preceded her. Buy it for your nieces and nephews for the holidays.