Staff Pick: Girl in a Band

When I was 13 or 14, my sister handed me a tape she had gotten but didn't like. It had a funny little crocheted doll on the cover. I put it in my tape player (yep, I'm old), pushed play, and was immediately transfixed. I was already into grunge bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but this was different.  It was more raw, more punk, more distorted, and yet somehow more dreamy than anything coming out of Seattle. This was Dirty, by Sonic Youth. 

One of the things I loved about it was Kim Gordon's unconventional vocals. She doesn't so much sing as growl, moan, and rage. The song Swimsuit Issue, about sexual harassment, drips with disgust and anger. Young as I was, I'd been dealing with the same issues most of my life, and it was so amazing to hear a song addressing it so directly, with such anger. I was hooked, and have been a Sonic Youth fan ever since. Kim Gordon became one of my feminist idols. Seeing them perform their masterpiece of an album, Daydream Nation, live, from start to finish, was one of the biggest thrills of my life.

As I read more about the group, I admired her more and more, and me and many girls like me aspired for a relationship like the one between Kim and band leader Thurston Moore. They seemed to have the perfect marriage - equal, creative, and long-lasting. I was shocked when I heard they broke up after 30 years. 

When I saw that Kim was publishing a memoir, I was the first on the request list. When it came in, I put all other reading on hold. Reading Girl in a Band was like listening to her talk - I felt like I was sitting with her over coffee, or maybe whiskey on the rocks. On one hand, it was hard realizing that this woman I had admired as being so strong, confident, and cool was much more vulnerable and human in reality. On the other, it's inspiring to know that she struggles just like the rest of us. The story of the end of her and Thurston's relationship was one I could relate to intimately, and my heart broke for her. There are moments of self-indulgence and name-dropping, but I think that's pretty standard for the celebrity memoir. All in all, I loved it. Sonic Youth may be no more [sob] but Kim will always be rock 'n' roll. 

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