Carrie Brownstein has become increasingly familiar to the public in recent years due to the success of sketch-show Portlandia, the archetype-skewering collaboration with Fred Armisen that showcases her comedic prowess. Before Portlandia Carrie was one third of Sleater-Kinney, the riot grrrl band that formed in Olympia, Washington in the early 1990s.
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Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl focuses largely on the trajectory of Sleater-Kinney, and the home that music provided for Carrie following a childhood fraught with disharmony. Her mother suffered from an eating disorder, and soon after returning home from rehab, she left the family. Hurt and angry, Carrie found an outlet in learning to play guitar, taking inspiration from bands such as Bikini Kill, who were blazing a trail for female musicians at the time. After moving to Olympia, the hub of the punk and riot grrrl movement, Carrie met Corin Tucker and the two formed Sleater-Kinney, travelling to Australia to record their first album (drummer Janet Weiss would join the band later).
This is a deeply personal memoir and an illuminating read for Sleater-Kinney fans. Carrie’s writing is taut and evocative as she shares episodes of teenage angst, to the peaks and pits of recording and touring, to her relationship with Corin and its subsequent breakdown. As you read it, however, her love for Sleater-Kinney glows off the page. In 2006 the band went their separate ways, and Carrie tells of how she threw herself into volunteer work at an animal shelter as a way to compensate for the loss.
There is a happy ending. The band reformed in 2012 to record No Cities to Love, and are currently on tour—they played Auckland on February 29. Much to the delight of legions of fans, it seems as though Sleater-Kinney aren’t done yet.