A rock ’n’ roll girl embraces motherhood, pens self-indulgent memoir.
Journalist McDonnell (the Miami Herald, the Village Voice, Rolling Stone) recounts her evolution from countercultural “riot grrrl” to relatively conventional wife and mother in thoughtful, engaging prose—but so what? Essentially a rather uneventful memoir disguised as cultural commentary, the book feints and parries with an interesting theme—the politically progressive/artistic woman’s horror of motherhood—but it mostly concerns itself with making a case for McDonnell’s coolness. She has the credentials: A graduate of the ’80s hipster paradise Brown University, McDonnell went on to live in Greenwich Village, pursue a career as a music journalist, participate in feminist political actions, start an alternative ’zine and generally stick it to The Man. There are a few references to the knee-jerk anti-baby sentiment popular with her crowd, but McDonnell is more interested in detailing her romantic relationships, her supportive relationship with her gay brother, her professional ups and downs and her groovy political activism; the effect is that of an unusually well-written journal of a typical middle-class, city-dwelling hipster in the ’80s and ’90s: self-absorbed, clever and likely completely uninteresting to another living soul. Her grating tendency to paraphrase rock lyrics at random moments (on her appreciation of nature: “wild things, I think I love you) doesn’t help matters. When, fairly late in the proceedings, McDonnell gets to the motherhood material, her descriptions of life with her unlettered carpenter husband, his troubled teen daughters and their baby son have a degree of charm (and would serve as a dandy premise for a smart dramedy for the Lifetime network). What’s missing is a compelling analysis of her change in attitude toward maternity; culturally and politically, McDonnell seems much the same with children. There are changes in priorities and lifestyle post-kids—but doesn’t this happen to everyone?
A nice grrrl, but not much of a riot.