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Book Review: Grrls – Viva Rock Divas

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I have to say that I was a lot more impressed with this book than I thought I would be. I was kind of skeptical of the cover with Courtney Love baring a sexy leg, but now, I take back any thought I had about it initially.

To begin, this book by Amy Raphael is a good book. Interesting, powerful, informative and, in many ways, inspiring for women. Especially young women. It’s a book about what it’s like to be a woman in the music industry making real music. It’s all about girl rock and grrl power, which is what originally made me skeptical about it. In my mind I always seemed to associate “grrl power” with fourteen year old girls and the Spice Girls. I take it back. Grrls is a great book if you’ve been a fan of women in rock for years or if you’re new and interested in learning more about it.

The women featured in the book are Courtney Love (Hole), Sonya Aurora Madan and Debbie Smith (Echobelly), Bjork, Nina Gordon and Louie Post (Veruca Salt), Gina Birch (Raincoats), Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth), Ellyott Dragon (Sister George), Huggy Bear, Tanya Donelly (Belly), Pam Hogg (Doll), Kristin Hersh, and Liz Phair.

While this is a great list of great talent, I was surprised to see some faces missing from the line up, such as Patti Smith and PJ Harvey, to name a few, though they both get some honorable mentions from the women interviewed, which is nice to see.

Courtney Love’s interview is one of the best interviews in the book, simply because it shows a side of Courtney that a lot of people don’t know existed, including me. It was surprising, to say the least, to see her quoting from books and talking about her relationship with Kurt Cobain. I think we all have this preconceived image of Courtney as a loud, obnoxious, boisterous female wearing frilly, torn dresses and red lipstick smears. The interview proves that there is a lot more to the woman than what we see on the outside.

The intro by Deborah Harry (Blondie) is sharp and sexy and straight to the point and is reason enough to read the book.

The only real annoyance I had with the book was with how much Madonna was referenced in Raphael’s introduction. Yes, Madonna is one of a kind. She made her mark and paved the way for pop tarts for decades to come, but she is not a rock “diva”. Diva, yes. Rock diva? No. When I think of women in rock, the obvious come to mind: Janis Joplin, Debbie Harry, Patti, Polly, Skin, Courtney.

All in all, this is great book for women, and men, to read and learn about an industry that tends to sexist.

Thanks for reading!

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About Jennifer Best