I wasn’t aware of the existence of this book until I found a copy in a little free library near home, and as far as memoirs by musicians go, Carrie Brownstein’s is still my favorite, but I’m glad to have read this too. Beth Ditto talks about her childhood in small-town Arkansas, and growing up in a family and in a place where “the legacy of abuse is made so normal you feel you have to move halfway across the country to come out from under the spell of where you’re from.” Judsonia, where she grew up, outlawed dancing long before Beth was born; she writes about how her Aunt Jannie “used to sneak down to the river, to a chained-up shed that hid a forbidden jukebox.” At some point when she was a kid, they had MTV, but that was taken away too; she talks about how a friend who had lived in Louisiana for a while recorded from MTV onto VHS tapes and brought them back. She remembers watching videos by “Hole, Veruca Salt, Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Alanis Morrisette” on those tapes, and then getting into Riot Grrrl. She talks about realizing she was gay and not knowing what to do with that, in the place where she lived; she writes about moving to the Pacific Northwest (first Olympia, then Portland) and starting Gossip, and working as a touring musician/working minimum-wage food-service or retail jobs between tours, when Gossip was first starting out.

There’s a lot of heavy stuff in this book, from the beginning on, but there are moments of hope and possibility from the beginning too. Ditto writes about her Aunt Jannie sitting in the living room in her bra and underwear: “Entitled to her own body, entitled to its comfort, entitled to live in her home as if it was hers.” She writes about her mom not letting people say the n-word in her house, and not having guns around: how she “fought violence, racism, and sexism in her own ways, in the small spaces where she was allowed control as a single mom in 1980s Arkansas.” And she writes about the possibilities that come from friendship, and especially the possibilities that come from music: that feeling, in high school especially, that every musical “discovery was a treasure that could save your life, that made you more understandable to yourself.”

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