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When I Grow up: A Memoir Hardcover – September 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
From her humble beginnings as a Berklee College of Music piano student to her brief critical success in the 1990s alternative rock explosion to her latest side project, Some Girls, first-time author Hatfield chronicles more than three storied decades in professional music. Alternating between a present-day cross-country tour and recollections from earlier years, the result is a mixed, overstuffed bag. Hatfield, raised, trained and tested (first as pop trio Blake Babies) in Boston, charmingly recollects her experience as a serious female musician with no desire to appear sexualized before her audience; readers will cringe alongside her as she awkwardly rejects a hotel room photo-shoot suggestion: "Why did they always want me to jump up and down on the bed? Were photographers constantly nudging Kurt Cobain to jump up and down on beds?" Hatfield makes a compelling witness to the alternative rock boom ushered in by Nirvana's success, and is both lucid and thorough explaining the bureaucratic minutiae of the music industry's new world order, dominated by the massive influence of star-maker Clear Channel. As a writer, Hatfield is humble and personable, if at times tedious; a clunky, symbolic prologue-about being unable to buy a pre-show shot of Patron with her club-issued drink tickets-is an early indicator of the book's need for further edit. Still, fans of Hatfield's bratty, bedeviled pop stylings should enjoy these glimpses into her life.
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Musician Hatfield, former member of the Blake Babies, recalls both her 15 minutes of fame in the early 1990s and her current, considerably less-glamorous life as a touring musician. Now in her early thirties, Hatfield is seriously considering hanging up her guitar after experiencing once again the discomforts of bad food, cramped dressing rooms, unreliable vans, and sparse crowds. The lure of music, making it and performing it, is what keeps her going, and she devotes many interesting chapters to the creative process, relaying both what has sparked the writing of her songs and how re-creating the sound in her head while onstage is somewhat like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. In her attempt to give readers an unfettered look at a working musician’s life, she sometimes suffers from TMI—her rants on the hardships of being a vegetarian and her petty feuds with coworkers do not exactly rivet one to the page or engender much sympathy. She does, however, adequately convey the pure joy she takes in her craft and the thrill of connecting to an audience. --Joanne Wilkinson
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Secondarily, whether she intended it or not, this book has been an excellent guide to deeper understanding the artist as well as a means to navigating her healthy back catalog for those of us who had only partial awareness of her body of work. Even though the insight into the albums she mentions isn't nerdly deep, understanding her mental model going into each record gave me enough of an idea about it to really get engaged with it.
Juliana's writing lacks pretense. Despite her unusual job, she shows herself to be a normal human being and doesn't shy away from describing her faults. While that's refreshing, I think on some level her fans would prefer to put her on a pedestal. Juliana's honesty makes that difficult to do. I'm sure this played a role in her career trajectory. Juliana comes across as a very shy person lacking confidence and self-esteem.
For me, the most interesting part of the book were the brief anecdotes about Juliana's experiences getting her start with the Blake Babies, and afterwards as a soloist. I would have enjoyed reading more about that time in her life. The content was weighted towards her experiences around the time she was writing, especially while touring with Some Girls.
In general, the book is an interesting read. I'm glad to be reminded that people are people, even when they're rock stars.