It’s the 1990s, and Gogo is a teenage punk girl growing up in suburban Fort Collins, Colo. Gogo and her Girl Gang (consisting of friends Dar, Corrine, and Kitty, to name a few) like to skip school, get drunk, get tattoos, take drugs, run around with unscrupulous skater/punk boys, and generally ditch any and all socially imposed responsibilities. However, Glory Guitars: Memoir of a ’90s Teenage Punk Rock Grrrl isn’t simply the story of a wasted-youth-gone-wild teenage girl and her gang; author Gogo Germaine’s brutal honesty, sharp wit, and unflinching introspection hit home in a unique way that make this book as emotionally stirring as it is thrilling and hilarious.
As a punk, it would be impossible not to relate to Germaine’s story in Glory Guitars. The title along with the opening chapter’s description of the thrill of ditching school (“ditching is a natural antidepressant”) sum it up perfectly. Punk rock is about freedom—the feeling of freedom captured in the best Ramones songs or in the guitar sound on the first Damned album. That said, there’s one major focus of Glory Guitars that I could never pretend to fully understand: being a teenage girl in an overtly male-controlled society.
The ridiculously dangerous punk rock bravado exhibited by Germain and her Girl Gang is often hilarious and genuinely terrifying. The most upsetting/hilarious example of this might be when the girls stand outside a strip club asking the departing patrons of said club to buy them beer because they are underage. Similar fearlessness seemed to be a trait of a lot of the punk girls I grew up with as a kid. Maybe a world that doesn’t allow you to feel safe in your own skin doesn’t get to watch you play it safe when it decides you should.
Glory Guitars goes to some dark places, for sure, and it’s not always easy to swallow. There are tragedies and there is ample emotional shrapnel. Germaine even admits that her teenage years are a subject that she can’t discuss with her family. Ultimately, these experiences add up to who we become, for better or worse—and if we’re smart, we learn from them. As it states in the last line of Germaine’s bio at the end of Glory Guitars: “She is no longer a danger-seeking asshole.”
“Good job, Gogo!” I said to myself upon finishing this book. It was an understatement, to be sure. However, my inclination to address the author personally, by name—as if she was now a friend, exemplifies the impact of Glory Guitars: Memoir of a ’90s Teenage Punk Rock Grrrl. There is a feeling of a soul-bearing all-night conversation about this book—the kind of vulnerable conversation in which new friendships are forged. I’ve read a lot of punk books, and this one stands with the best of them. –Buddha (University of Hell, universityofhellpress.com)