Cover image for Hunger makes me a modern girl a memoir
Hunger makes me a modern girl a memoir
Publication Information:
[Westminster, MD] : Books on Tape ; New York : Penguin Audio, [2015]
Physical Description:
6 sound discs (7 hr.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
General Note:
Title from web page.

Compact discs.
Personal Subject:
Local Subject:
From the guitarist of the pioneering band Sleater-Kinney, a candid, funny, and deeply personal look at making a life, and finding yourself, in music. Before Carrie Brownstein became a music icon, she was a young girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest just as it was becoming the setting for one the most important movements in rock history.


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Audiobook SCD 921 BROWNSTEIN 6 DISCS 1 1

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From the guitarist of the pioneering band Sleater-Kinney, the book Kim Gordon says "everyone has been waiting for" and a New York Times Notable Book of 2015-- a candid, funny, and deeply personal look at making a life--and finding yourself--in music.

Before Carrie Brownstein became a music icon, she was a young girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest just as it was becoming the setting for one the most important movements in rock history. Seeking a sense of home and identity, she would discover both while moving from spectator to creator in experiencing the power and mystery of a live performance. With Sleater-Kinney, Brownstein and her bandmates rose to prominence in the burgeoning underground feminist punk-rock movement that would define music and pop culture in the 1990s. They would be cited as "America's best rock band" by legendary music critic Greil Marcus for their defiant, exuberant brand of punk that resisted labels and limitations, and redefined notions of gender in rock.

HUNGER MAKES ME A MODERN GIRL is an intimate and revealing narrative of her escape from a turbulent family life into a world where music was the means toward self-invention, community, and rescue. Along the way, Brownstein chronicles the excitement and contradictions within the era's flourishing and fiercely independent music subculture, including experiences that sowed the seeds for the observational satire of the popular television series Portlandia years later.

With deft, lucid prose Brownstein proves herself as formidable on the page as on the stage. Accessibly raw, honest and heartfelt, this book captures the experience of being a young woman, a born performer and an outsider, and ultimately finding one's true calling through hard work, courage and the intoxicating power of rock and roll.

From the Hardcover edition.

Author Notes

Carrie Brownstein is a musician, writer, and actor. She was the guitarist and vocalist of the band Sleater-Kinney. She was the creator, writer and co-star of the television show Portlandia. Her books include Portlandia: A Guide for Visitors and Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

In performing the audio edition of her new memoir, Brownstein, creator and star of TV comedy series Portlandia and a member of the band Sleater-Kinney, maintains an engaging presence with her conversational style. Despite both the emotionally charged nature of Sleater-Kinney's feminist-punk music and the coming-of-age/relationship themes in the story line, Brownstein opts for an understated emotional tone, preferring to leave the screaming on stage. The recording does include clips of original music by Brownstein, in addition to an interview in which she discusses the process of penning her book. One of the most intriguing questions she tackles is the almost total absence of references to Portlandia from her autobiographical narrative. Even listeners not steeped in indie music can at least appreciate the display of artistic devotion. A Riverhead hardcover. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Bookended with sea changes in the life of Sleater-Kinney, Brownstein's memoir is as much about the band as it is about herself (minus her Portlandia fame). Her descriptions of her troubled Pacific Northwest childhood set the stage for her arrival on Olympia's lively punk scene. There, amid sweaty clubs and the intellectualism of Evergreen College, she found a rich community and a serious collaborator in Corin Tucker, and Sleater-Kinney was born. Several successful albums later, however, the stresses of touring and Brownstein's health problems took their toll, culminating in an unsettling blowup, a scene she recounts in an apologetic tone. Brownstein flips easily from brainy ruminations on nostalgia, fandom, and record labels to trenchant stories about sexism, music journalism, and how a soy allergy not drugs or alcohol brought her to her knees on tour. Though the scattershot tone makes for a lack of cohesiveness, her vivid Sleater-Kinney stories and descriptions of their albums are downright irresistible. Sleater-Kinney fans went nuts late last year when the trio broke their years-long hiatus, and Brownstein's memoir will give them more to salivate over.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2015 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

LAST FEBRUARY, Sleater-Kinney took the stage at Terminal 5 in New York City for the first time in nearly 10 years. Carrie Brownstein, stage right as always, was all our rock-star dreams come true, her arms windmilling, her legs high-kicking, brandishing her guitar above her head, her voice a rough demand. It blended with and crashed against the preternatural wail of her bandmate, the guitarist Corin Tucker, backed with the insistent drums of Janet Weiss; three women making a noise we felt all through our bodies. Playing with them again, Brownstein writes in "Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl," was like being home. That show didn't feel like a reunion, like so many halfhearted affairs when a once-great band reconstitutes as a zombie version of its best self. But it wasn't exactly as if they'd never left, either. Brownstein's new memoir takes its title from a Sleater-Kinney lyric and tells the story of the band, which she begins at its end. In their years together, Sleater-Kinney put out seven records that transcended their origins in the Pacific Northwest's mid-90s riot grrrl scene, transcended punk rock and built on one another until they reached the apocalyptic pitch of "The Woods" (2005), an album that dared the biggest of stadium rock bands to match them. And then they called it quits. Brownstein tells, for the first time, what she did to "destroy Sleater-Kinney." It's improbable but true that Brownstein is better known to some for her role on the sketch show "Portlandia" than as one of the best rock guitarists of her generation or any other, part of what Greil Marcus declared the best rock band in America. Fans of "Portlandia" might recognize the actress they adore in her tales of childhood singalongs, interpretive dances and gender-bending murder-mystery parties, but Brownstein's focus is on how music saved her and remade her, or rather allowed her to remake herself, again and again. Growing up in the suburbs of Seattle, Brownstein constantly searched for connection with the people around her - her distant mother, hospitalized with an eating disorder; friends and friends' parents; even celebrities. She wrote needy letters to soap-opera stars before finding her way to music and realizing - at a George Michael show, of all places - that "I would much rather be the object of desire than dole it out from the sidelines." She describes her experience as a fan, pressing against the rail at punk shows, "risking crushed toes, bruised sides, and the unpredictable undulation of the pit," reaching closer to those she wanted to be. The hunger of the title resonates on page after page - hunger to be known, to be seen, to escape. The book is spare and arching like a stripped-down rock song, but it rarely has the rawness Sleater-Kinney fans might expect. Running throughout is the tension between wanting to be seen and wanting to hide, wanting to reveal and wanting to retreat, wanting to tell but wanting to decide how much. To break through the mythology of Sleater-Kinney but to leave it mostly intact yet truer, closer to reality but still not quite real. Music, Brownstein repeatedly writes, was a way for her to find but also to lose herself. When she met Corin Tucker, then playing in the riot grrrl band Heavens to Betsy, she found the perfect foil for her own tendencies to hold back and then to explode. Of Tucker's sound, she writes: "Any sadness was also defiant; it was not the wail of mourning but of murder. And there was so much I wanted to destroy." Her book is filled with women - the only significant man is her father, the parent who remained in her life (her mother moved away when Brownstein was a teenager) - a choice that feels all the more radical because it is unremarked upon. Brownstein's relationship with Tucker, first as fan, then as romantic interest and finally as musical partner, is central to the book but leaves the reader aching for more detail; at times she seems to be waiting for Tucker's voice to come in, as well as for Weiss's drums to crash. She has left room for them to tell their own stories. The empty spaces in her narrative raise the question yet again of how much of a woman performer we fans get to claim. Women musicians, Brownstein writes, are assumed to be always telling their personal stories. "An audience doesn't want female distance, they want female openness and accessibility, familiarity that validates femaleness." The rock critics obsessively described Sleater-Kinney as "girl band," a label they kicked against repeatedly. Brownstein's fight against being pigeonholed rings on every page: her challenge to the limitations of punk purity and "scenes" and critics' obsession with her femaleness, her anger at being outed not because she was embarrassed but because she didn't want to be defined as one thing or another. By telling her story on her own terms, she is both acquiescing to those questions and continuing to refuse them. After all, she is telling only one part of the tale: how being in a band saved her and then broke her and then, once she'd healed, allowed her to feel herself again. And that story isn't even over. 'I would much rather be the object of desire than dole it out from the sidelines.' SARAH JAFFE, a reporting fellow at The Nation Institute, has written about music and culture for Billboard, Dissent and other publications. Her book on social movements will be published next fall.

Guardian Review

A complex and moving portrait of a coming of age in America Aged 18 and living in the suburbs of Seattle, Carrie Brownstein answers an ad in a local music paper: "Girl guitarist wanted, no wanky solos". It turns out to have been posted by the Washington riot grrrl band 7 Year Bitch. To her shock, she gets an audition, so she puts on her dad's suit jacket, a white T-shirt and a green baseball cap turned backwards, and sits on the sofa feeling like "a puffy cloud on a couch surrounded by women who were clearly thunder and lightning". When she doesn't get the job, she writes them a letter, pouring out all the psychological hurts that feed into her desperate need to be in a band -- her mother's anorexia, the stifling silence of her family home. When she sees them around town in the months afterwards, 7 Year Bitch look at her with pity and distrust. "There is a gulf of misunderstanding between musicians and their fans," she writes, "and so much desperation that the musician can't possibly assuage, rectify or heal." Brownstein tried to bear this in mind years later when dealing with fans of Sleater-Kinney, the explosive Washington rock band she formed with Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss in 1994. The duo took root in the fertile soil of the riot grrrl scene -- although as Brownstein points out, by this time bands such as Kathleen Hanna's Bikini Kill had done a lot of groundwork enabling politicised all-female rock groups to get on with the business of playing. Now 41, Brownstein has begun a second career, writing and appearing in Portlandia, an arch TV comedy about hipsters in Portland. "I don't know if I would consider myself a musician now," she says. She is the only woman to appear in Rolling Stone's "25 Most Underrated Guitarists of All Time" list. We're living in the golden age of the female rock memoir, and one thing writers such as Brownstein, Viv Albertine and Kim Gordon have captured so well is the overwhelming sense of unease and awkwardness that drives people towards a life on the stage. These books are not magical tales of the lucky kid picked out for fame -- Sleater-Kinney never had a hit single -- but explorations of why that particular kid could never have done anything else. The portrait of the child that emerges here is complex and moving. Learning the word "anorexia" from a friend, she taunts her mother with it relentlessly, inserting it into the lyrics of songs and singing it at her while she tries to eat. Soon after, her mother acknowledges her illness and checks into an eating disorder unit. When Brownstein is 14, her mother leaves, and from then on she is raised by her father, who later comes out to her. She becomes "stoical" as a teenager -- which no doubt equipped her well for the diffident world of 1990s underground rock. The most evocative sections of the book take place at the seat of the riot grrrl movement, Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington -- the progressive, utilitarian arts school where everything, from class to band life, is a "dialogue" and her future bandmate Tucker keeps a label saying "RACIST" on her jar of Calumet baking powder ("I'm not sure why she didn't just avoid the brand..."). The student Brownstein hovers on the edge of the crowd she longs to be part of, wearing men's shoes, "lingering, muttering, waiting around". She acknowledges the scene's sense of humour bypass, too. "These people are so cool and so not funny," she thinks of Heavens to Betsy, a band Tucker is involved in. Musicians would be harassed in the local amateur music press -- the "zines" -- for any "perceived racist/sexist/classist/ transphobic/whatever-ist behaviour". Zine culture was the internet before the internet; Olympia was "the town equivalent of a wink". Going on tour is all about trying to find a clean place to sleep -- an "endless, slovenly slumber party". And sex? No thanks. She spends a lot of time engaged in platonic spooning with female friends, or trying to keep up long-distance relationships from payphones. Brownstein may not be laugh-a-minute but she has a great sense of the ridiculous. Sleater-Kinney turn to group therapists, Susan and Nina -- "we became a 10-legged lover working through our issues". She fantasises about life beyond the band, but when Tucker gets pregnant it incites a kind of suppressed panic. Brownstein interviews for jobs in academia, film and TV, and works as a substitute teacher. There is uncomfortable reading around her 2006 breakdown, which put the band on hold again (they have since reformed). Sleater-Kinney got an unexpected shot in the arm in 2003, supporting Pearl Jam in arenas across the US; there was a new challenge in playing to larger audiences, trying to convert the hairy guy in the fourth row. It's a strangely inspiring coda; a laying aside of old musical prejudices by a band raised to believe in the "toxicity of the mainstream". Brownstein even gets a taste for guitar solos. * To order Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl for [pound]12.99 (RRP [pound]16.99), go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over [pound]10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of [pound]1.99. - Kate Mossman.

Kirkus Review

First-class account of the life and times of an essential riot grrrl and the band she helped create. In this debut memoir, Brownstein, co-founder of the iconic punk band Sleater-Kinney, traces her evolution from the daughter of a secure but secretly unhappy homecloseted gay father, anorexic motherto a gawky teenage rock fan and, ultimately, to becoming an artist in her own right. (She does not delve into her work on Portlandia.) The story of her life is also, inevitably, the story of her own band: meeting (and having a close but tortuous relationship with) co-founder Corin Tucker, the endless process of writing and co-writing songs and guitar leads, firing drummers (they went through three before striking gold with Janet Weiss), and the way life on the road both forges and fractures relationships. For Sleater-Kinney fans, the book is an absolute must, as it not only describes the rise of the band, but also delves into the making of every album. Furthermore, for a band in which song authorship has never been perfectly clear, Brownstein gives some insight as to who wrote what. More than that, the book is deeply personal, an act of self-discovery by a writer both telling her story and coming to understand herself at the same time. "In Sleater-Kinney," she writes, "each song, each album, built an infrastructure, fresh skeletons." The author writes focused and uncluttered prose, choosing the best, most telling details, as she recounts stories that show what it means to perform for the first time and what it means for a woman to be both a fan and a star in a staunchly male-dominated world. Unlike many rock star memoirs, there's no sense that this book is a chore or a marketing effort. It's revealing and riveting. On the page as in her songs, Brownstein finds the right words to give shape to experience. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

Brownstein's memoir of growing up in the Seattle suburb of Redmond, her obsessive love of the indie music scene that developed in the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s, and the birth and maturity of her band, Sleater-Kinney, will delight fans. Brownstein proves an articulate and thoughtful writer, not flinching from her difficult family life, her immature mistakes as she found her feet in the music world, or her role in Sleater--Kinney's breakup. The author's reading is sincere, clear, and personal whether the subject matter is grim or hilarious. Verdict Recommended for fans of Brownstein's music (Portlandia fans should note that the show is conspicuous in its absence from this book), those who enjoyed Sara Marcus's Girls to the Front, and readers looking for a smart and expressive rock bio. ["A strong, engaging pop culture memoir: personal detail, a little dish, and a well-written look at what made the music, and the culture that spawned it, matter": LJ 10/1/15 starred review of the Riverhead hc.]-Jason Puckett, Georgia State Univ. Lib., Atlanta © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.