frazzledsoul's Reviews > When I Grow Up

When I Grow Up by Juliana Hatfield
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Jun 18, 2011

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bookshelves: read-in-2011

I've been a fan of Juliana Hatfield for 16 years. In fact, I think discovering her music when I was 14 really shaped my identity in a lot of ways. It was at that point that I discovered that I didn't have to struggle to fit in and be the perfect Southern belle that my family and friends wanted me to be: that it was okay to be independent, strange, and socially disaffected. Her music opened me up to the fact that there were other people like me out there and that one could actually derive meaning and connection from what we heard out of the speakers. It opened me up to a lot of different artists and books and movies and I started looking for thing that I saw myself in from that point on.

It took me a while to get around to reading it. If one reads Hatfield's website or her Twitter, they know how raw and open her commentary often is and it put me off a little. However, I picked up the book this past spring and saw so much in it that matched my love for her in the first place.

The book isn't for everyone. Hatfield is painfully honest about her social awkwardness and shyness and general weariness of going through the motions of being a struggling musician. The tour sections of the diary could have been trimmed down a lot. However, it's these sections that really made me identify with her, because I too am still shy and awkward and don't know how to be around people and I still have a hard time understanding how "normal" people act and the routines and situation that are so foreign to me. I do think that this kind of thing will definitely not speak to everyone, but as far as I'm concerned it did have its place within the narrative.

The stuff about being a minor player in the 90s and her general misadventures in the music business since then will be of more general interest to anyone who followed the alternative rock scene. I have to say that despite Ms. Hatfield's declining fortunes, her music after she left the major-label scene is much more mature and nuanced than it was when she was at the height of her fame. I find that interesting because many of the artists that I enjoyed at that time period who I still follow (PJ Harvey, Liz Phair, Tori Amos, etc) have largely declined in quality, but Hatfield hasn't.

The book is three years old, but for anyone who's curious, Hatfield is still putting out albums and doing the occasional show (these days with Evan Dando). I encourage anybody reading this to pick up the book if they're intersted and check out her work at

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