Riot Grrrl: Revolution Girl Style Now! by Nadine Monem
rating: 2 of 5 stars
Like the contributors to this book remind their readers, there is no official historian of Riot Grrrl and no one way to tell the story. While I appreciated the authors’ interest in personal voice, I felt that like so many other books that have tried to document an underground phenomenon (I’m thinking of “A Girl’s Guide to Taking Over the World” here), this book did not live up to its potential. I appreciated the British perspective, as I learned a lot about British bands and Grrrl culture I only had heard a little about. However, sometimes the essays were too personal. For example, one author repeatedly quoted her own writing as a source. Other chapters tended towards the long-winded sentences of an undergraduate essay. Throughout the book there were large historical gaps: writers tended to skip the years from 1995 to 2000. The story seemed to read,”There was Bikini Kill and Huggy Bear, then they broke up, Sleater-Kinney didn’t really matter, then there was Lady Fest and the Gossip, who are the ultimate Riot Grrrl band.” For me (and this is MY personal experience), the mid-to-late 1990’s and early 2000’s were a hive of Riot-Grrrl activity in the United States, including zines, Yo-Yo-A-Go-Go, the Bay Area Girl Convention, and the explosion of zine related gatherings, Rock Camp for Girls, and yes, Ladyfest. These things are barely, if at all, mentioned in the book.
Overall, the book suffered from sloppy copy editing and lack of fact checking. Zine and film names were misspelled, and typos such as “on” for “of” seemed like a rash throughout the text. It seemed like the authors of different chapters did not consult with each other or read each other’s work. As a result, the same story of Kathleen Hanna and the beginnings of Riot Grrrl were repeated throughout.
It’s true that no one book will do Riot Grrrl justice, but I had hopes that when there was an opportunity for part of the story to be told it would be done so with greater accuracy, clarity, and thus pack a greater historical and literary punch.