The Grammy-winning artist recounts the eventful story of her life as a musician and feminist political activist.
The daughter of an architect mother and an engineer father, DiFranco grew up in 1970s Buffalo as a cheerfully independent misfit who loved horses and poetry. After her brother was hospitalized for psychiatric issues, she shifted her attention to dancing and music. She learned to play guitar from a colorful public school artist-in-residence named Michael and came to realize that music “brought me deeper and deeper into the world” in a way that dancing did not. When her mother left the family, DiFranco followed her but then left to strike out on her own as an emancipated teenager, sleeping in bus stations, gigging with Michael, and working to finish high school early. Then she moved to New York and, at age 18, started selling tapes of what became her eponymous debut album. DiFranco also began a long, complex relationship with Scot Fisher, who helped her manage her newly founded label, Righteous Babe Records. In between playing clubs and festivals at home and abroad, DiFranco took classes at the New School for Social Research, discovered feminism, and began experimenting with bisexual polyamory. Her commitment to left-wing political activism also blossomed, and she engaged in protests against the first Gulf War and American intervention in El Salvador. By the mid-1990s, DiFranco moved out of the hardscrabble underground scene and into the mainstream, which now recognized her as a major talent and successful entrepreneur. Marriage to her sound engineer and tours around the world followed. Yet in the midst of triumph, she still felt “utterly alone.” Like post–9/11 America, she would endure several “years of flailing” along an uncertain path. Interspersed throughout with feminist/political musings and anecdotes about such music legends as Pete Seeger, Prince, and Bob Dylan, DiFranco’s tale celebrates both independent music and an unconventional life daringly lived.
A refreshingly frank and free-spirited memoir from a feminist icon.