Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution

By Sara Marcus

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Harper Perennial, 2010

Genres: Non-fiction, social sciences, feminism, women’s studies, popular culture

ISBN: 9780061806360

Intended audience: Adults

Number of pages: 367

Setting: Mainly set in Olympia, WA & Washington DC (but also includes other locations in the US and Europe)

Time period: 1989-1994

Description: Punk rock + young woman  + DIY + feminism = riot grrrl.  “In the beginning, someone told a girl to start a band” (p. 31).  The book describes how the bands Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Heavens to Betsy came into existence and how these bands and associated zines sparked  a riot grrrl movement across the county and world with girls creating bands and publishing their own zines.  The movement started in Olympia, WA but soon spread to Washington, DC and other areas around the US.  Once mainstream media became aware of riot grrrls, however, everything changed.  The book includes an extensive bibliography, notes, and index.

Illustrations:  There are a few reproduced pages from zines as well as a few black & white photos of various events and people.

Appeal factors:

Pacing: Brisk pace – some parts move very quickly.

Characterization: Many women’s stories are told in this book and there are a variety of characters.  Some appear only once, while others appear throughout the book.

Frame:  The author’s note at the beginning of the book sets the frame – Marcus reflects on her first learning of riot grrrls and the impact this had on her life at the time.  This bit of personal history is the first of many personal histories shared in this book.

Story line: An intense examination of a movement compiled from a variety of sources, including interviews with former riot grrrls.  It is a story of angry young women who wanted to change the world; it is still completely relevant today.

Subject headings:

From Pima County Public Library:

Feminism — United States — History — 20th century.

Riot grrrl movement — United States — History.

Similar works:

Riot Grrrl: Revolution Girl Style Now!  by Nadine Monem

Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music by Marisa Meltzer

Cinderella’s Big Score: Women of the Punk and Indie Underground by Maria Raha

Pretty in Punk: Girls’ Resistance in a Boys’ Subculture by Lauraine Leblanc

Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism by Alison Piepmeir

Personal notes: This was an amazing book.  I appreciate the author’s hard work in assembling this story; I also appreciate her humble attitude.   The book contains a mass of stories which include many characters, which I sometimes got confused in the various threads of the larger story (but usually not for long).  I enjoyed reading the origin for Nirvana’s song title “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  Reading this book made me miss living in Olympia a little bit – especially the Capitol Theater.

Other: Diversity – young women, punks, bisexuals, lesbians

Website for the book

Riot Grrrl Manifesto

“‘A Little Too Ironic’: The Appropriation and Packaging of Riot Grrrl Politics by Mainstream Female Musicians” by Kristen Schilt

“You Can Run But You Can’t Hide: The Incorporation of Riot Grrrl into Mainstream Culture” by Alison Jacques

One thought on “Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution

  1. very interesting points you have observed , appreciate it for putting up.

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