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on August 26, 2014
Sara Marcus starts out by informing us that she wanted to uncover the mystery of a movement she herself had just missed out on, and she does...kind of. As with most things written about Riot Grrrl (particularly by those who weren't there), Marcus puts an emphasis on the girl bands that played a part in shaping the part of third-wave feminism that we now think of as Riot Grrrl. Whether because that's the part that was most interesting to her as a biographer, or because she chose to spend most of her time interviewing the musicians of said bands or for some other reason, the fact remains that music was but one aspect of the "girl culture" that was being borne from that movement.
Some people who had significant roles within Riot Grrrl, like Donna Dresch, don't get so much as a mention, while countless others that gave their heart and soul to that scene get a sentence or two in the course of the book. Lastly, Marcus' own necessary impartiality seems to get more and more tainted as the book wears on, reaching something of a crescendo by the time she details the banning of several Riot Grrrl members from the now-defunct Beehive Collective.
In summation, read the book and enjoy it for what it is: a love letter from a fan who spent some time collecting the stories of others. But do not, in any way, take this to be the be-all-end-all "True story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution", because it's not even close.
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on October 4, 2010
Wow! Just finished the book and many thoughts are taking over my brain. This book explains a lot of things that I always wondered about: Things such as who were the people involved in Riot Grrrl besides the famous faces we always see?, did other girls really act evil with one another besides Ms. Love? and most of all what were the good parts of the movement that I never knew. It's easy to understand why riot grrrl started/ why it fell apart, but it takes a book like this to understand the in between parts none of us knew. The latter is the best part of this book. The author does not try to kiss anyone's ass nor is she burning bridges. She's diplomatic with a healthy dose of truth and skepticism. Also, the other book with the seemingly same subject matter "Riot Grrrl: Revolution Girl Style Now!" is a totally different book because its focus is on the music/style than the nuts and bolts of riot grrrl as a grassroots movement. This one is for the people who care about what exactly happened in the history of this feminist movement while the other book is more for music and pictures. Buy both and get schooled the fun way.
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on March 20, 2015
Caveat: I was way into Riot Grrrl in the early 90s, so i am not remotely an objective reader of this book. That said, i loved the s*** out of it in a grand, passionate, angry, weepy, wall-punching, boot-stomping way. Perhaps it's partly nostalgia, and perhaps it's partly directionless frustration at a lot of present-day misogyny, but even though this book is far from perfect, i am thanking every last star that Marcus wrote it, and that i read it.
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on March 4, 2014
This is a powerful rendering of some crucial years, a time that still resonates today in phenomenon like Pussy Riot and Girls Rock! I was part of this moment, and it still matters immensely to me... this book is a worthy document, and the result of painstaking research... check it out if you can!
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on December 20, 2010
Just finished this book and did not feel quite as enthusiastic about it as a number of my friends. It was very well-written, and especially captivating towards the beginning, but it follows a decidedly negative narrative trajectory towards the second half, basically suggesting that Riot Grrrl was always already over (the old "punk is dead" refrain) before it even began. The second half, in particular, traces a disintegration of feminism, sisterhood, and collaborative activism and privileges the voices of dissent and disillusion. This seems unfortunate to me, since Marcus is clearly aware of this trajectory and apologizes for her own perspective often, while also attempting to remind us-- in an uninspired, even pedantic sort of fashion-- that the feminist struggle continues. To me, a broader look at the organic outcroppings of Riot Grrrl around the country and a more diffuse perspective (even a longer time frame) would have enabled a more grassroots sort of movement to emerge and indicate its many permutations rather than the focus on leaders that Marcus decided to take. Perhaps a marketing decision here? My feeling is that this could have been avoided with a basic, structural shift of focus from bands to the broader movement (which included self-defense workshops, house parties, puppet shows, movie making, political protests for a wide range of issues, zines, etc.). Marcus does mention these, but her central focus (and the narrative) is music, and really just the big three bands, which I feel inherently skews the story in a direction of decline. If this "revolution" is symbolized by the concept that "a band is any song you have ever played with anybody even if only once" then perhaps evolution, growth, commitment, and sustainability are foreclosed from the start. Thoughts?
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on October 22, 2013
I am eternally grateful for coming across this book on the Rio Ggrrl movement, something which personal circumstances caused me to clean miss out along with most music from the nineties. As I got into it, I read it avidly.

Sara Marcus modestly prefaced her book with her own experiences of riot grrl with flashes of dry humour in between youthful emotional experience and in recent years waiting for someone else to chronicle it before realising that "I could pull evertyone's stories together' before devoting herself to rediscovering and reliving them for herself and the reader.

Her writings have the genius of being scholarly without being academically dry along with the unique ability to create for the writer how it felt for the female punk artists to be who they were and explain from within the process of illuminated enlightenment and from then on, how a 'do it yourself' movement came into existence. It succeeds in generously apportioning loving attention to each girl and dextrously illustrate relationships to the women's movement at the time especially in the darkened times of the rise of the US Religious Right.The writing is rich in shadings of moods and all the protagonists ask for is for others to listen to how it feels.This book is definbitely a treat for the senses.

By pure coincidence, I was watching a TV programme on the religion based state persecution of the Pussy Riot Russian punk group complete with dayglo coloured performance art which and . If I hadn't read this book first, this programme wouldn't have had the resonance for me.
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on September 14, 2015
I wanted to give this 3.5 stars, but since half stars aren't an option I felt like this deserved a bump up instead of a bump down. The book covers the years grunge became pop music between 1989-1994, and tells the rarely heard feminine side of that culture. With a movement like Riot Grrrl it's impossible to separate the political from the music, but I wanted to read more about the music than was presented here.

The author jumps around a bit, and at times seems to lose focus. I would have also like to read more of an analysis of the movements broader impact on culture (other than "big media tried to buy and sell us" and "Spice Girls ripped off Girl Power") but the subtitle is "true story of" not "analysis of."

As someone who wasn't there (obviously) I think between this book, and the documentary "The Punk Singer" I was able to get a good idea of what the Riot Grrrl movement ment to the women of the early 90s.
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on July 6, 2015
Girls to the Front begins with the formation of Bikini Kill and ends in 1994 as it began to fizzle out. The book is very fair in explaining external and internal problems that led to the end of the movement. While it focuses on the internal workings and evolution of the movement, it looks at the external social and political atmosphere at the time and shows Riot Grrrl's perception of and involvement in political and social events and how they fueled the movement. Most importantly, the book explains why the Riot Grrrl movement needed to happen and why it was able to take off as it did. For anyone who wants a quick, easy, yet in-depth and well-researched read of the what, why, how, and where of the Riot Grrrl movement, then I highly recommend this book.
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on February 22, 2014
Bikini Kill blew my mind from the minute I heard Kathleen's voice my freshman year in high school. I try to read everything and anything in regards to the riot grrrl movement even though it was long before my time. This book narrates the good and bad. The highs and lows of this feminist movement. I enjoyed the book. A must read for any one who thinks they are a riot grrrl or a feminist. Or just any punk looking for a little more education as to what actually happened.
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on February 28, 2014
For the past decade, I had looked up to and found inspiration from the riot grrrl movement. I was let down by the book. I want to believe the girls in the book weren't actually as vindictive, hypocritical, self-righteous and shallow as Sara Marcus has portrayed them. I wanted to like this book, but all the name-calling and high school bratty-ness of it, left a bad taste in my mouth. For the sake of my teenage years, I hope this is a terrible representation of riot grrrls everywhere. Shame on you, Marcus.
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