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Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl
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Jul/Aug-Hunger Makes Me.. (2016) > Identity Formation in Youth

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Ashleigh Hyatt (achyatt) | 18 comments I haven't finished the book yet by any means, but I wanted to get the discussion started about identity formation. It seems throughout the first parts of the book, Carrie is searching for words to describe herself and to give her life meaning. She mentions doing this through the use of stickers, patches, and pins to advertise what music and literature she was into. She also discusses feeling alone, disconnected, and inside of her head often especially as a teenager growing up in Redmond/Seattle. Carrie reports using music and lyrics as a way of feeling connected to someone and something more than herself and using lyrics to describe how she was feeling when she couldn't put it into words herself.

I recognize a lot of myself in these thoughts and statements made by Carrie. I too have tried to use stickers/clothing/music choices to define me and to help me find others who were similar to me. As I have gotten older (I'm only 26, so I still have learning to do), I have realized that none of the external things matter. What matters most is how you treat people and your general interest in them and their lives. It doesn't matter if you have the same preferences and likes.

I am just wondering what your thoughts were on identity formation in youth in general. Did you find the need to express yourself with certain brands/bands/items in order to fit a certain "brand" of individual whom you wanted to be like? I know adolescence is a time of exploration, but it seems as though there are better ways to create your own identity than following others or trying to fit a certain mold. Thoughts?


message 2: by Henriette (new)

Henriette Terkelsen (henrietteterkelsen) Just for the record - I haven't read the book yet.

In my teens I tried to break as many molds as possible. I deliberately chose to attend a highschool where I knew I would be seen as odd - and then I played up the odd.

However, I had, and still have, problems with believing that people like (and even harder: love) me, so in my teens I really was in opposition to everything so that those who chose me were people I was certain really liked me.
I've changed my strategies now, but the issue is still there.

My husband, who has worked a great deal with teens says that they have a pretty typical pattern: they are obsessed with being unique in exactly the same way as their friend. As a teen you want to feel unique, but you can't risk being so weird that you are shunned. So they practise pack-uniqueness :)


message 3: by Evelia (last edited Jul 05, 2016 09:10AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Evelia | 89 comments I identify with the books I read. I spend most of the time in the school library. There were different groups but I was not interested so I mostly kept to myself.


Ashleigh Hyatt (achyatt) | 18 comments Henriette wrote: "Just for the record - I haven't read the book yet.

In my teens I tried to break as many molds as possible. I deliberately chose to attend a highschool where I knew I would be seen as odd - and the..."


That is so true about the teenage "pack mentality." I think it's interesting that this whole idea of teenage/adolesence and identity exploration is relatively new in our society as before once children hit puberty they got married and had children. I think having this time to explore who you are and what you want out of life (including making mistakes and learning from them) helps shape a truer, more authentic you than simply growing up, getting married, and procreating.


message 5: by Carolina (new)

Carolina Echavarría (carolinaep) I agree with the idea of pack-uniqueness. I think teenage is a time for exploration and learning, to decide what we whant in life, due to the transition between childhood and adulthood, so teens want to be different, to change, to grew; but, as teenage is also a time for building independence, they want (or must of them do) to fit in a grup that shares their interests, because those are the people they are going to relate in the coming years to help them grow in confidence and that also will help them to build social habilities needed for adulthood.
For me, it was kind of a dificult time at first because I was the weird nerdy punk girl! For that I really didn't fit in any social group in my school, but I found cultural expressions as music to help me get to people that shared my interest and thoughts.
I also believe, that identity isn't statique, it changes with us all along life, every experience changes us and therefore it builds our identity too, the only difference is that it is not so related to others as it was in our teen years. (Sorry if is not well writed, english is not my mother language, so I keep learning!)


Clarissa Lunday | 43 comments I am 22. My first two years of high school, I had the opprotunity to start finding my identity. I was involved in my school. I knew people and for the first time I wasn't made fun of. Then we bought a house and moved to a new school district and my mom was in and out of the hospital, my parents marriage falling apart, my brothers and sister tell my parents they don't discipline my little brother and I enough. All the shit I had when I grew up was different than they had. Because of that I wasn't allowed to find my self-identity. They wanted me to fit a mold that I couldn't fit and it mafe me depressed. I tried to kill myself when I was 14. I had to quit college for financial reasons, not really my fault, financial aid didn't cover $600 and my money was stolen by an ex, whom my family hated because I had sex and smoked weed. I still do both.
I was sent to Seattle against my will but it happened to be the best thing that happened to me. I realized one day I no longer had the smothering I had when I lived with my family. I had my sister but she was normally too busy to realize what I was doing. I finanlly got the chance to branch out and what do you know I found a wonderful man they still don't really approve of, I'm going back to finish my degree in Septemeber, I got to speak with a US Senator, I was able to have the life I wanted without the struggle of being who they wanted.
People don't understand my story, my family doesn't even understand my story. They are afraid of who I might become because I am an opinionated, open, strong headed woman who has faced a lot more in her 22 years than they did at my age. And I have proven myself time and time again to no avail except showing myself how strong I am. Carrie Brownstein was able to use music to get out of her head. I had to escape from a death grip and I still haven't fully escaped.
They are family. But do all families take away the things that define who you are until you can no longer stand to live? My boyfriend had to look at me after I had gotten out of a psychiatric facility when I was 21 and tell me "Clarissa, you are loved. I love you." and since then he has helped me build myself from the pieces that were shattered. And it isn't what they want.
The identity she found in music, I found by finding love. And it scared the stuffing out of me. It scared her and it probably scares a lot of people once they find it because it feels right. It feels like you aren't hiding from who you are but welcoming yourself with open arms. It isn't easy but I am glad that I went through all of the things I went through and I will look back and probably laugh as well.


Ashleigh Hyatt (achyatt) | 18 comments I have finished the book, which was amazing by the way. And it seems as though Carrie didn't really "find" herself until she departed from Sleater-Kinney and felt what was missing, which seemed like ultimately why the band got back together again. I think it is interesting how she tried to find identity in clothing, stickers, labels, etc (like all teenagers and young adults seem to do) when in actually her identity was found in the people with whom she made a life with and shared memories with, her band.

I think this experience is true for me as well. I tried different labels on in middle school, high school and college, but I felt like I didn't really "find myself" until I was married to my best friend, living on our own, and working at a job I loved. I began to associate myself with what we do for fun, our beliefs and values, and how well I do my job, which seems like was part of Carrie's story as well.

So, although I don't relate as much to Carrie as a musician/performer, I can definitely relate to her journey in becoming a woman and the person who she was meant to be.


message 8: by Indigo (new)

Indigo (indigo_denovan) | 96 comments I loved reading these stories here. :) As for my own experiences, I think I was a bit different from others. Since I'm hard of hearing and was born such, and am totally deaf when I don't wear my bilateral cochlear implants, it's really difficult for me to overhear any gossip (as if) and my unknown health issues also made me have to be careful of what I spent my energy on. That combined with my alienation from such "superficial things" of cliques and fashion and the like that I just decided to find a few good friends that I had a deep and trusting relationship with and ignore the rest of the school (I speak for Middle School during this because I was taken out in 9th Grade and homeschooled for the rest of my "High School" time span). I never had a chance to "fit in" with anybody else due to the visibility of having to take care of my FM equipment and deal personally with all my teachers and be my own best advocate. My mom also instilled in me good training to be able to be my own advocate and to teach others about how my hearing loss works (we did once-a-year teaching the class about D/HoH or deaf and hard of hearing things, how it works, how cochlear implants and hearing aids work, and letting them experience what it's like to be hard of hearing with some aids to do so).

With all that, I guess I got all the "uniqueness" I needed since I was the only HoH person at my school for a long time until someone else joined in the latter part of Middle School. I didn't really relate much with her though, since she kept to the background and used the teacher assistant to advocate for her while I was unashamed of raising my hand or indicating with a hand gesture for the teacher to turn on the FM if it was accidentally turned off. Hell I'll even go right up to the front of the class to fiddle with the FM for further troubleshooting (with the teacher talking all the while to the class) if needed just to make SURE it works and then go back to my seat as if nothing happened.

I was known as the artist during that school (apparently according to my gossip-loving sociable friend, because otherwise I have NO clue wtf my fellow classmates thought of me and no interest to devoting any sort of energy towards that endeavor. We are in school to learn right? So I put my limited energy towards that over all other priorities.) but when I went to that short part of High School and wore Michael Jackson t-shirts because I liked his music and liked the singer too, apparently I got known as that "one of the two weird kids who are MJ fans" and my sociable friend was almost offended by that on my behalf whereas I just shrugged it off with a "Do I really care about what they think of me as long as they don't actually take it out on me physically or with words directly to my face? No. Then what does it matter? I have plenty of other things to do with my time! I'm here to learn, duh." I did like that judgment if only because I found out through a friend I made there about another MJ fan but I quickly realized when there was no other connection aside from being fans of the same singer, there was no spark for me, and therefore no reason to really get to know them aside from that. And I wasn't offended by them seeing the MJ thing first because that didn't change the fact that I am still a good artist.

I DO remember being perplexed and sometimes insulted by my sociable friend when she tried to mimic my clothing style, interests, and likes. I didn't get why she did that and tried to encourage her to find her own interests and celebrated the ones that she found enjoyed for her own reasons - that she genuinely liked them - rather than something "to just do" because I liked it. Perhaps that "teen pack mentality" explains her behavior that had seemed so odd to me. I was always happy to like and do my own thing, and didn't really have any interest in "fitting in" or "keeping up with the trends." Blegh. I only get into something if I truly genuinely am interested in that, and friends can help introduce me to things but if I don't like it, then fine I just don't like it and no harm done.

I did get into - big time - the New Age section of the bookstore and online. Found other wing-obsessed people in a "Grow Wings" goal on the 43 Things website (back when it was still up). Learned almost obsessively about astrology, palmistry, numerology, and read the personality books and self-help books to better understand myself, and through that, to better understand the world around me. Ironically, my "group" was a bunch of middle-aged or older ladies who were getting into the New Age stuff and would always remark with surprise and praise at "how young you are to be getting into this and what a head-start in life you'll have as a result!"

I always connected better to the middle-aged ladies as an age group because I find they GENERALLY (just in general mind you) are calmer, centered, grounded, have already "been there and done that" and are willing and happy to give me advice as needed, are patient and tolerant, totally fine with my intense emotions, delighted when I get funny and expressive and communicative and share my wit and insights, so accepting and welcoming of my eccentricities, totally fine with my strong will and stubbornness, and have that "motherly" feeling that I so adore since my own mother is a highly logical engineer that I've had to teach a lot about emotions once I got past the age of 14 or so. Yeesh. I just get drawn to the motherly, nurturing, openly loving, and touchy-feely side because of that unfulfilled need I'll admit.

But yeah, I was always walking the off-beaten path, and had some alienation with the often self-centered and highly dramatic reactions of my peers for the longest time and in many ways I'm STILL waiting for them to calm down as a whole and stop rushing to snap judgments based on limited life experience. My own calm, balanced, open-minded, actively inclusive, centered and grounded, almost distant and very patient long-term viewpoint is best matched by the middle-aged ladies I find. I feel the calmest with that age group and the most supported and among those who "think in similar ways" to me as a result. I hope what my mom and many of them say is true, that once you get older you relax a lot more and a lot of those dramas tend to fall away and not be so "overwhelming and all-consuming" like they seem to be still at this age (early twenties) and DEFINITELY for the teens and younger groups.

I can't wait until more of my peers are calming down and slowing down. My health issue has already forced me to prematurely slow WAY the HELL DOWN and calm down by necessity as well, so I find a lot more in common with the old folks who complain of aching bones and fragile bodies and having to pace themselves in their days and life. I have to do that already, so that puts me even more out of step with my age group. Heh. By the time my peers finally deal with the slowing down of old age, I'll be so much an old hand at that, I'd just blow past it with a breeze lol.

Anyways sorry for rambling so much. That's my story. :)


message 9: by Momma (last edited Jul 14, 2016 07:39AM) (new)

Momma I finished the book in a few days - having grown up in the Pacific Northwest the underground culture aspects of the Grrrl Riot music was fascinating. I was struck by Carrie's manic efforts to find connections. She felt so isolated growing up that she just wanted to be heard so she got louder. It seems to me she desperately was looking to be validated in a way that was authentic to how she felt about herself without really knowing what that was. After finishing the book I had to go back and watch and listen to the videos of Sleater-Kinney. I was really amazed and highly recommend it to really understand the experience of expression the band had for Carrie and their audiences.


Casey O'Reilly | 3 comments I love this topic.

Though I wouldn't consider this a spoiler, I'd like to give a heads up that I've finished the book.

I think what I found most interesting about the question of identity in Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl was when Carrie realized that the group she had always thought was "open to all" was actually very exclusive.

Even as an adult (I'm 26) I've experienced this strange Phenomenon. Particularly with so-called "hipsters," I often find that they are extremely exclusive though consider themselves accepting, open-minded people.

It's fascinating to me the the concept of open-mindedness is "in," so to speak, while the actual execution is so rarely found.


Ellen Watts | 21 comments I really enjoyed this book and I'm so happy to see a discussion of identity because for me that was the main theme that caught my attention.

It's really great to read books which discuss identity and the feeling that you don't really know who you are which go beyond the teenage years/early 20s, that acknowledge that this feeling for some people can last much longer, even maybe our whole lives?

I was really interested in how when Sleater-Kinney went for therapy together they all drew charts which represented how much of their lives the band occupied, and Carrie's realisation that it occupied so much of her life and was associated with so much of her anxiety. I'm not an artist or musician, but I worry about how much of my life and identity are linked to work. This leads not only to stress and anxiety from working too much and not taking time out, but also a fear that without your work identity you don’t know who you are at all.

I think that this is something which affects women in particular because people, both men and women, are more likely to approach women for help with tasks at work, leaving us overloaded with tasks that we don’t get any recognition for.

Also Casey I loved your comment about open-mindedness being 'in' but rarely actually practised, so true!


message 12: by Hannah (last edited Jul 24, 2016 12:20PM) (new) - added it

Hannah | 37 comments For most of my life I haven't felt a particular need to "find myself." It sounds a bit paradoxical, as if one is looking outside to find what's inside. Personally, I have spent too many fruitless hours trying to create a neat little definition that communicates my most essential qualities, but a neat little definition often requires some diminishing of its subject. I think it's very freeing to just let yourself exist and realize that you owe no explanation. So what if you're ineffable? You are. People will get a sense of you without a manifesto. There are enough boxes to break down without those we create for ourselves.


MeerderWörter | 2388 comments I think that identity is formed the most in youth, but it changes over the whole life, sometimes more, sometimes less.

I must say that until now, the last years have shaped me the most (I'm 19), but going to university will definitely shape me once more. Right now I think I have figured out who I want to be in my life, I don't think that huge changes will happen any more. But one never knows, be careful what you wish for.

I must say I haven't noticed the identitiy-formation thing while reading the book, but if I read it again, I'll look especially for that. I would say tho that Brownstein is a singer and songwriter, this has been clear to me after reading further and coming across that certain part in the book.

She breathes music in the way I breath books.


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