Saturday, June 13, 2009

From Riot Grrrl To Alt-Mom

This article was taken from LA Times.

From Riot Grrrl to alt-mom
By Erika Schickel
February 12, 2007 in print edition E-14

SHE was there for the postfeminist revolution, marching down Fifth Avenue topless with “slut” painted on her belly. She was hanging out in clubs, interviewing Kristin Hersh and Patti Smith, rocking with the Riot Grrrls, staring down yuppies in the East Village, publishing a ‘zine, getting hitched in a gorilla mask. Her alt credentials are flawless. “Mamarama: A Memoir of Sex, Kids, & Rock ‘n’ Roll” is Evelyn McDonnell’s account of a life lived on the cultural and then maternal cutting edge.

McDonnell started out a Midwestern pop-music addict (crushing on the cartoon version of Michael Jackson in the 1970s, while her older brother swooned over Speed Racer’s limpid eyes.) She knew who she was from the get-go – “Some people are born musicians. I was born a listener” – and began her rock ‘n’ roll apprenticeship at an early age, following bands and deejaying in clubs.

“Punk rock saved my bored, zit-faced teenage life

McDonnell spent her 20s and 30s in the mosh pit of alt-pop culture, meeting her icons and helping to forge a new kind of feminism for her generation.

“It was the early ’90s, when direct activism, identity politics, hip-hop, and grunge were driving forces of the dawn of the Clinton era. We were a new breed of woman whom pundits, including some in our own ranks, struggled to name: postfeminists, womanists, Riot Grrrls, pro-sex feminists, do-me feminists (a name obviously thought up by a men’s magazine), third-wave feminists, lipstick lesbians, bitches with attitudes.”

For someone who grew up in New York and is McDonnell’s virtual contemporary, “Mamarama” is frequently a fun trip down memory lane. She captures the excitement of the East Village and the post-punk music scene in loving detail. But her rebellion, as reported here, grows to be somewhat formulaic. We know what’s coming next, and her story gets bogged down in its chronology as she tells it beat by beat, from beginning to end.

“Mamarama” sometimes reads like an incredibly long Village Voice profile. McDonnell is not without agenda and presents the facts of her life with hefty editorializing. While that often leads to insight, her prose can sometimes be as rhythmic and predictable as a fist pump – one wishes she would unclench that fist and massage the material a little more. Inject some humor and poetry, mix up the chronology, make her life story more of a mix tape than an LP.

After 179 pages of “rama,” we finally get to the “mama,” with the birth of her son, Cole. By this time, McDonnell is living in Miami (where she is currently an award-winning culture critic for the Miami Herald) with her husband and his two teenage daughters. Her son’s birth shifts her out of reminiscence and into the more immediate (and interesting) present-tense concerns of the book – reconciling a liberal, liberated lifestyle with the more conventional and traditional responsibilities and routines of parenthood.