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REBEL GIRL by Kathleen Hanna


My Life as a Feminist Punk

by Kathleen Hanna

Pub Date: May 14th, 2024
ISBN: 9780062825230
Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

The lead singer of feminist punk band Bikini Kill chronicles her life and career.

Before Hanna became a beloved musician and co-founder of the Riot grrrl movement, she was a child trying to survive domestic violence. Her father was a labor union leader whose “untreated alcoholism” led to her parents’ divorce. Hanna left home for Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, where she majored in photography. There, she met Tobi Vail and Kathi Wilcox, and they formed Bikini Kill. In the years that followed, the band toured the country, coining famous phrases like “Girls to the Front,” which doubled as a call for girls to join bands and a way for punk girls to feel safer in the face of harassment from male audience members. The author’s troubled past and the realities she observed at organizations like SafePlace, a domestic violence shelter, highly influenced her lyrics, many of them focused on experiences with gender-based violence and sexual assault. After leaving Bikini Kill, surviving Lyme disease, getting married to Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys, adopting a child, and founding the band Le Tigre, Hanna reflects on everything she has learned in her long career. She is particularly circumspect about the Riot grrrl movement and her views on race, both of which she says have evolved considerably, as well as her history surviving violence. “Male violence didn’t create me,” she writes, “it just made it harder to make my art—but I did it anyway.” Hanna’s book is raw, honest, poetic, insightful, and often funny. Her political evolution is particularly gratifying, especially for readers who grew up with Hanna’s self-admittedly imperfect activism. At times, the text is more of a stream-of-consciousness rendering of chronological events than a structured narrative, a style that is mostly charming but occasionally confusing.

An impressively perspicacious memoir from one of feminism’s most influential artists.