Hersh, who founded the band the Throwing Muses in the 1980s, explores the mysterious, volatile nature of both creativity and mental balance in this flinty, dreamlike memoir of her precocious, unconventional teens. As her band gains recognition, Hersh is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and with riveting prose, she describes episodes of burning energy in which music comes in both sound and color and demands to be written: “My job, as it turns out, is only to shut up and listen.” Prescription drugs mute the process, but after she becomes pregnant and chooses to have the child, Hersh tries life without meds. Song lyrics and diary entries mix with Hersh’s memories, which read more like poetic, sometimes satiric impressions rather than traditional autobiography. Whether she is describing her childhood with hippie parents (Dude and Crane), her wildly diverse friends (including Betty, an aging, self-proclaimed former Hollywood star), or childbirth classes with grimly competitive yuppies, Hersh presents a refreshingly raw, insightful, and singular coming-of-age story. --Gillian Engberg
is the story of a wide-eyed soul coming to maturity in the ridiculous cacophony of modern life. Although it is supposedly about what we call, for lack of a better term, 'manic depression,' it has nearly no interest in such grim diagnostic thinking. It is instead awestruck - by music, feeling, perception, wild animals, mystery, dreams, 'the gorgeous and terrible things that live in your house.' It is an original beauty."
-Mary Gaitskill, author of Veronica
and Don't Cry
"Funny, freaky, fidgety, Hersh's memoir is the book a fan didn't dare hope for: a beacon in a dark field, illuminating the mysterious and the mundane. Beautifully, honestly, written and as close as you will ever get to being in a Throwing Muses song."
-Wesley Stace, author of Misfortune
and By George
"Ultra-vivid writing and intense honesty is what you'd expect from Kristin Hersh, one of America's finest songwriters. But Rat Girl
is also a startlingly funny and touching memoir of her mid-Eighties moment as the bi- polar, pregnant, intermittently homeless frontwoman of a rising indie-rock band. It's a gripping journey into mental chaos and out the other side."
-Simon Reynolds, author of Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-84