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Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music Paperback – February 2, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; First Edition edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865479798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865479791
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #617,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Marisa Meltzer is the coauthor of How Sassy Changed My Life (Faber, 2007). Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Slate, Elle, and Teen Vogue. She attended Evergreen State College and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, is the kind of university that offers neither grades nor majors. Its central quad is called Red Square; its concrete-block, riot-proof buildings are nestled among acres of forested land; and the chili in the main café is always vegan. As can be expected from its left -of-center reputation, the school has attracted a mix of outcast students since its inception in 1967: hippies, slackers, and punks. It’s also my alma mater. And I count myself as one of them.
Olympia is the capital of Washington State. It’s small—the population only about forty thousand—and some of the only decent jobs available to graduates who want to stick around are for the state government. But it was (and still is) cheap enough that a bohemian existence can be fairly easily cobbled together with part-time day jobs conducive to the lifestyle of a fledgling band. In the mid-eighties, an all-ages punk scene cropped up in the city, buoyed by a club called the Fabulous Tropicana; the student radio station KAOS; the music fanzine Op; and Calvin Johnson’s label, K Records, and his band, Beat Happening.
To a certain kind of person, the Olympia lifestyle could seem ideal. The musician Tae Won Yu moved there from his native New York City in the spring of 1992 because it felt like “a paradise. I woke up every morning feeling like, ‘I can’t believe I’m in Olympia. It’s like Paris in the thirties.’” The singer Mirah Zeitlyn describes early nineties life in Olympia: “We were all making rock operas and we had this huge theater we could use when we wanted. There are certain kinds of energy that maybe can’t be replicated.” Naturally, she or ganized her college music collection not alphabetically or by genre, but by gender. “I didn’t think twice about it. Sometimes I want to listen to this stuff that men make and sometimes I want to listen to this stuff that women make.”
The Olympia musician Lois Maffeo grew up in the cultural doldrums of Phoenix, Arizona, and heard about Evergreen through a high school friend who was being hassled by her hippie uncle to go there. “I was like, ‘No grades? I’m so sold,’” she recalls. Maffeo had a by-the-books college paradigm shift: her first dorm mate was a punk girl with dyed blond hair and raccoon-like makeup. Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening helped Maffeo learn the guitar by drawing her a three-chord chart and saying, “People have done worse with more.” She went to art shows at a space called Girl City and hosted a radio show of music entirely made by women called Your Dream Girl on KAOS. “I locked into the fact that girls just run this town,” said Maffeo. “Going to an all-girl high school, there wasn’t that constant trying to vie for the attention of boys. I felt like girls were rad. I didn’t need to be convinced.” The writer Mikki Halpin lived in Los Angeles but knew the town by reputation: “There were a lot of people who really would make a very convincing claim at that point in time that Olympia was a matriarchy.”
On the other side of the country, Washington, D.C., was a city known for its punk bands. It was also where Calvin Johnson had lived during high school. He had befriended many of the bands in D.C., and in the years after he moved back to his native Olympia to attend college, a kind of cultural exchange developed between the underground music scenes in the two cities.
In 1991, Maffeo was living in D.C.’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood when riots broke out following the shooting of a Salvadoran man by a black female police officer who had been trying to arrest him for disorderly conduct during a Cinco de Mayo celebration. “They went on for days. You’d run home from the bus stop hoping not to get hit by anything,” says Maffeo. Watching the physical confrontation between a community and the police was oddly energizing, she remembers. “We realized you can push back, it’s okay. It really was an exciting feeling.” One day during the riots, her housemate Jen Smith ran into the house and said, “What we need is a girl riot.”
Excerpted from GIRL POWER by Marisa Meltzer.
Copyright © 2010 by Marisa Meltzer.
Published in 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.


More About the Author

Marisa Meltzer is author of Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music and co-author of How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time. Yes, she really loves the nineties that much.

As a freelance writer, her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Elle, Slate, New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, and many other publications. She has covered such diverse topics from why Miley Cyrus is a good role model to which Pride and Prejudice adaptation has the best Mr. Darcy and she's reported on Parisian riots and overachieving New York City high school students.

She is a graduate of The Evergreen State College and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Customer Reviews

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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ana M. Underman on July 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
I ordered this book after reading about it in Bust magazine. I was pretty excited that someone had written a scholarly book on the pop culture of my teenage years, but I was in for some serious disappointment. After a strong and interesting discussion of the riot grrrl movement in the first chapter, Meltzer's ideas quickly lose focus. Her lack of a concrete thesis becomes a glaring problem shortly into the book and she seems to try to be all things to all people-- for example, obviously idolizing the Spice Girls for personal reasons while still attempting to maintain some awkward feminist objectivity about them. Her lack of thesis leads her to vascilate wildly between personal subjective opinions and a rather contrived attempt at a scholarly feminist analysis. I mean, we all feel deeply and personally about the singers we loved growing up, but that doesn't mean that any of them had anything important to say about feminism. I my opinion, this book was poorly thought out and poorly written and had little interesting to say about women in music in the 90s. I was enormously disappointed and rather annoyed. Bust was touting the release of a book on riot grrrls this fall-- maybe that will have some better insight.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Susan M. Barron on July 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
I have always been outspoken and unashamed about being a feminist, and though I sometimes gravitate toward the harder stuff, I've always appreciated that Lilith Fair, Ladyfest, and other events can co-exist. They offer millions of people a kinship they might not get in other scenes, and they also offer an artist's living for the makers. I appreciate her assertion that Riot Grrrl committed a sad suicide when it could have taken over the world instead (it was certainly poised to have real power of its own for a long, healthy time) and I enjoyed the lead-in to a discussion of so-called "Foxcore" and pop bands that took over in the vacuum that Riot Grrrl left. She hits the nail on the head in many cases, though she misses the point of why events such as Lilith Fair and Michigan are still necessary (especially in today's political climate), and why we need them as women, especially in the mainstream.

My main disappointment (which is also a praise as well, as I appreciate the author's honesty with her own shortcomings) comes from reading Meltzer's opinions of the scenes she encountered. When I read about her changing her looks so she'd fit in with her local Riot Grrrl scene, I cringed, as that's not what it's about at all. If she would have stood up for herself, I think she would have had a better time in general there, but instead, she was still very much in high-school mode at the time. I never encountered fashion police in any scene whose music I enjoyed, nor anyone who gave me the stink-eye for not looking like them. Kids can seem guarded when new people enter a scene (and sometimes with good reason) but it's often b/c you haven't gotten to know one another, not because you have the wrong haircut.
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Format: Paperback
The riot grrrl movement created a women lead music scene, feminist ideals for girls, and an outlet for women. The book gives an overlook of an inspirational period for young women, how it slowly crumbled, and what we can do differently today. The major message in this book is the feminist ideas for girls to take a stand and not let men control the world. The feminist motifs are more about giving girls women role models instead of having men control everything from politics to punk. The girls were meant to see themselves as connected and having each other’s backs. Girl Power should be read by lovers of 90’s punk, young preteen girls (due to the fact that that’s who the movement was designed for and greatly impacted), and people who are interested in riot grrrl. This book should not be read by Courtney Love fans (because she was essentially detrimental for the movement and not well liked by the author) or fans of 70’s all male punk bands (because this book is about the opposite of the punk movement). I loved the author’s personal anecdotes and how she was able to connect to the people she interviewed because she too was involved in the movement. Another thing I liked was the spectrum of people welcomed into the movement, at its early stages a girl could be into pink and bubblegum and anything to grunge and black hair dye. I didn’t like the small obscure references the author would make to bands or festivals that I was unaware of which I loved to learn more about. An aspect of the story I did not enjoy was how the movement was truly a moving underground scene for girls but become mainstream and essentially crumbled with no one willing to fight for it. There was a narrowing focus on an end-point and a loosely gathered point at that.Read more ›
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brittney Martinez on January 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've always enjoyed reading feminist and riot grrrl literature, and this book is no different. However, a thesis is glaringly missing. Fun to read, and I learned a lot, but I wish I got more intellect out of it and less history lesson.
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