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Rat Girl

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  2,845 ratings  ·  295 reviews
The founder of a cult rock band shares her outrageous tale of growing up much faster than planned.

In 1985, Kristin Hersh was just starting to find her place in the world. After leaving home at the age of fifteen, the precocious child of unconventional hippies had enrolled in college while her band, Throwing Muses, was getting off the ground amid rumors of a major label de
Paperback, 319 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Penguin Group
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Average rating 3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,845 ratings  ·  295 reviews

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May 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
i'm so fucking excited. i gave the quote that opens this book so i'm allowed to name drop that she's my awesome mother in law, right? ...more
Sep 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
In 1984 was supposed to go see Duran Duran play on the Seven and The Ragged Tiger tour with a group of my friends, but at the last minute my parents wouldn't let me go. So the first rock show I went to without parental supervision was in high school in 1989. I was seventeen and the club was eighteen and over only. I was a hopelessly good kid that didn't care about drinking (and never owned a fake ID), but I altered my driver’s license so that it looked like I was a year older just so I could see ...more
Irene Ziegler
Oct 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
In Which Kristen Hersh Calls Our Book Club and is Dark and Blue and Sweet:

I'd never heard of Kristin Hersh, or her art rock band,Throwing Muses, which she formed at age 14. I know, I know, I'm about as hip as a walker. My Book and Cake Club picked her memoir, Rat Girl as our October read. (BTW, if you don't belong to a book club where everyone brings cake, you're in the wrong book club.) Hersh's email address is printed in the back of her book, so Noah Scalin emailed and asked her if she'd like
Caitlin Constantine
Nov 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Maybe the best thing I can say about this book is that I really, really want to listen to a lot of Throwing Muses after reading it. There are a few songs by the band that I like - particularly "Shimmer" - and I also really like Kristin Hersh's solo stuff, but knowing more about Hersh's creative process has made me listen to the songs in a whole new way.

While I was reading, it occurred to me that Hersh would make a great subject of an Oliver Sacks piece. Here we've got a woman who has had a head
Feb 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been trying for some time to write a decent review of Rat Girl: A Memoir, but not very successfully. As has been noted elsewhere on GR by myself and others, the books you really love are the hardest to review. Therefore, although I cannot do this quirky and delightful work justice, the following brief remarks will have to suffice.

As a rule, I am very stingy with my 5-star reviews. I usually reserve them for works of exceptional technical skill, genius-level mastery of the narrative form or
Aug 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have a weakness for memoirs about music, and this story is pretty great. I loved her friends, and her strange ways. It´s truly an original way of describing the first part of her life, I think her mind is just translating everything in such a great way, it seems like fiction, so its more like a novel. Its one of those memoirs where you don't actually have to be a fan of her music to read, more like I feel like listening to her music more after having read this. ...more
Nov 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Picked this up because I am working through Rolling Stone's list of the best rock memoirs. I like Throwing Muses and haven't read many female musicians memoirs so I went into this thinking it'd be a good book. Hmmmm. I read the intro where Kristin says this isn't a memoir per se but a novel based on her diary from when she was 19. Ok, well obviously every memoir written is not 100% true unless the person has been walking around their whole life tape recording conversations and has a photographic ...more
MJ Nicholls
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Original review:

Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses and 50 Foot Wave and herself) writes about the most turbulent year in her life, a year of bipolarity and pregnancy and eccentric old women, a year she would revisit in countless songs in her career. She bears her past sufferings with dignity and writes in a unique, graceful way that never indulges in sentiment or self-pity. Her prose can be stylised at times, esp. with her bandmates’ repartee, but she has a good understanding of how to keep her narra
Dec 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Only a tad bit past the Introduction - and what's this? - I want to write a "progress" review already just b/c it hits home already! I wasn't in a band - I was just a f**ked up artist teenager in the middle of a life that just kept getting stranger, sadder, funnier, more ironic (in the dictionary senses of the word), and oddly enough, I became stronger and more compassionate despite the deep-seated disgust and hate flowing through my being at that time. There's only so long after leaving home wh ...more
Oct 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
[There might be some minor spoilers below, though probably nothing surprising and nothing that's not alluded to on the back cover]
When the early Throwing Muses records came out, I didn't pay much attention to them, not disliking them but kinda dismissing them as "madness rock" and being vaguely turned off by Kristin Hersh's unusual vocalizations (I think 'bleating' is an accurate, non-judgmental description of one of her techniques). Over the years, I came to like them a bit more and now, after
Oct 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir-ish
The content of this book tends to fall into three categories: her music, her diagnosed bipolarity and her pregnancy. Being the self absorbed person that I am, I found the pieces of her life that I could actually relate, at least slightly, to be more compelling than the music parts. sometimes I felt she was a little heavy handed with the whole "I've got a musical demon inside me that must be released" type thing, but as soon as she went down that path, she'd quickly turn down a path that I felt w ...more
Oct 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Two weeks ago, if you had asked me to tell you everything I knew about the band Throwing Muses, I would have gone dough faced and dead eyed. "Canadian punk band?" I would have un-educatedly guessed. Somehow this foursome escaped my musical reckoning in the mid-80s.

I would have been wrong. But that wrongness at least says this: One does not have to be a Throwing Muses Head to want to metaphorically rub lead singer Kristin Hersh's memoir "Rat Girl" all over her body in hopes of absorbing a fractio
Kerry Dunn
Jan 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2013
Fantastic. I loved this book. Like, a lot. Kristin Hersh writes this "memoir" as a novel and it's a novel with many colorful and interesting characters, none more so than Ms. Hersh herself. Her writing is full of humor and a fun quirkiness. I can't remember the last book I read where I felt compelled to read passages aloud to anyone who happened to be near me, most often co-workers in my office cafeteria or my fiancé at home. I especially loved the relationship with Betty Hutton. Ms. Hersh might ...more
Nov 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, music
I've been a lifelong Throwing Muses fan. I say that because I got into the Muses when I was about 11 (via older friends who liked to make mix tapes), and their early records are just as resonant to me now, a week before I turn 30, than they were when I first heard them. I don't always like to "pierce the veil" and peek behind the artist through memoir because they are usually exercises in self-indulgence and self-loathing in equal parts. But this was really great. Less a memoir and more an edite ...more
Dov Zeller
Apr 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
This memoir is strange and beautiful, sharply philosophical and very funny. I picked it up by accident thinking it was a graphic novel of some kind (I hope there is a graphic interpretation of this soon!) and could not put it down.

There is such awe, humility, so much love and so little pettiness in these pages. And yet when reviewers call her outlook "child-like", I don't know what they mean. I suppose we're all child-like at eighteen in the ways that we are, and already sophisticated and world
Corinna Fabre
Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
I actually had to pause my reading of this book half way through for several reasons and, although I did finish it (because I always finish my books), I think I theoretically would have been ok leaving it where it sat. To me this book was….fine. I found Hersh hard to get along with. Not in an aggressive way necessarily, I just struggled to find that connection in her words that could bring me a connection with her. Instead of serving to open a door and connect the reader, it felt more like being ...more
Sep 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
It was overdetermined that I would love this book, given how much I love Throwing Muses and Hersh's music, but I cannot overstate how well-written and gripping Rat Girl is. The story is so present in each moment that I was surprised by every turn of events, even though I already knew many of the outcomes.

Without draining any of the songs of their animation or mystery, the book gives back story on dozens of Muses songs. My favorite new insight is into "Hate My Way," a song that starts as a caric
Oct 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kristin Hersh's "Rat Girl" deconstructs the notion of memoir. The book takes place during only one tumultuous year during the singer's life but it manages to cover so much: Bi-polar disorder, her band Throwing Muse's record deal and recording of their first album and the pregnancy and birth of her first child.

If someone wasn't familiar with Hersh or Throwing Muses and picked up this book he or she would probably be confused. Hersh is vague about a lot of the details on things that exist around h
there's no way i'm going to finish this. i'm a huge throwing muses fan, but the tedium of reading her innermost thoughts that in truth read like throwing muses lyrics unsung, is a little much for even a fan. it's just taking me too long to get through it and it's more of a chore than a joy. listen to "red heaven" instead of reading this. ...more
This was a neat book. Beautifully written and made me laughs in certain spots. Glad I picked this one up on a whim.
Sep 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Let me preface this review by reiterating the fact that I have a hard time with female vocalists. For me, many of them blend together into interchangeable background noise. In fact, I can only think of a few female singers that I even like - Joan Baez, Carole King, Mahalia Jackson, Emmylou Harris, and too many classic soul singers (Motown, Stax, etc.) to count. I know it's lame that I can't name check the hottest new indie female powerhouse (Adele? Is that one?) The point is, and with the discl ...more
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended by Suzanne of Goodreads (LA).

Something must be going on as it took me a little while for me to realize that I was picking up such personal book—both in terms of what Hersh does with this memoir of one year (1985) and how it touches me through commonalities of time, location and artistic environs. I loved the music of that period (punk rock)… still do although I haven't thrown a recording on in over a decade.

For some reason, I hadn't made the connection to Hersh's Throwing Muses, with
John Cooper
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Rarely has a book been so ill-served by its title or by its American cover, a spare drawing of a worried young woman by Gilbert Hernandez after Charles Burns. The teenage narrator of "Rat Girl" doesn't waste a lot of time in apprehension, and she doesn't hang out with rats, much, although a snake makes a significant appearance. She's brave, naïve, wildly creative, and mostly upbeat—someone everybody would be better off knowing, even if they couldn't keep up with her for more than an hour in real ...more
Jan 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Kristin Hersh is definitely one of my favorite musicians of all time. I love Throwing Muses to pieces and I've always felt like if I sounded out loud the way I sound in my head Kristin Hersh's voice is what you'd hear, so I was really thrilled to read this memoir. The book is about the chaotic time in Kristin Hersh's life as Throwing Muses was about to burst into indie stardom with 4AD records, Kristin's bipolar disorder emerged and began to spiral out of control, and she became pregnant. Her pr ...more
Nov 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Let me start this by saying Throwing Muses was my go-to band all through my formative girl years. There was something about the crazy music, Kristin Hersh's crazy lyrics, and the womanliness of it all that held my attention for years. It was nonsensical, rough, clever and loud, like me! Easily I would say they are the most important band in my life, even though I'm old now and would rather sit in my house and read than go to a concert. So I'm a bit biased going in to this.

This book was great as
Oct 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
It seems that lately I start every review with a note about how it took me a while to get into the book and so I don't know if it's me or truly the books, but, once again, it took me a while to get into this book. It was funny and entertaining, yes, but it seemed there wasn't much of a sense of plot, at least in the beginning.

I did really enjoy the book, though. I never would have guessed that the members of Throwing Muses were so...sweet. Nor would I have guessed how they felt about their music
Dec 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Certain things I love
Spend my time
I guess I'll have to unhook those hooks
This woman literally
Felt she had a hook in her head
Rip it up Live it down
Make it big Keep it clean
Shake it off
Take him off Take it off
Do him good Keep it up
Shake it off
He's a fucking drag
But if you don't then you watch him go
If you can you see it home
You be strong
--Hook in Her Head.

Throwing Muses always kind of confused me -- raw, but also thoughtful and evocative of something both painful and hopeful. And then comes this
Apr 01, 2012 rated it liked it
I picked this up during a phase of nostalgia for the early 90's alternative music scene. Even though this book touches on a band formed earlier than that, and though I didn't ever really follow Throwing Muses, I knew of them, and of some of Kristin's later work.("Your Ghost" with Michael Stipe is still a favorite of mine). At first I had a hard time with how independent and precocious she was-in college at 17? A dream of mine, sure, but when added to her homeless/wandering lifestyle and being in ...more
May 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autobiography
This book was recommended to me by a dear friend who is also a big fan of Throwing Muses and Kristin Hersh in general. Boy, am I glad she did. What a fantastic book and a what a fantastic person. This autobiography details the mid 80's period when Ms. Hersh was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, her band, Throwing Muses was starting to be discovered and other life changing things happened. Interspersed are Hersh's lyrics and stories from her amazing childhood as the child of two adorable and slig ...more
Elizabeth Hunter
Oct 14, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
This is a hard one to rate by stars--I found it well-written with a strong voice and some wonderful turns of phrase; it was gripping and hard to put down, even when I really wanted to, and I found myself thinking about Kristin as I went about my day; it was also almost unbearably sad and real at some points.

I think I've become a mom. Even though I had some pretty dicey moments at nineteen (Kristin's age at the time she describes here) and that wasn't the closest period in my relationship with m
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Kristin Hersh (born August 7, 1966) is an American singer, songwriter and author.

(from Wikipedia)

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