Carrie Brownstein Takes Us On A Trip Down Memory Lane

in honor of her memoir, 'hunger makes me a modern girl'

Photographs courtesy of Carrie Brownstein and Riverhead Books.

The end of October marked the addition of another hyphen for musician-actor-creative extraordinaire Carrie Brownstein—memoirist—with the release of Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl. Here, we get a backstage pass to Brownstein's prolific mind. 

You’re a great writer in other fields (music with Sleater-Kinney and comedy with Portlandia), but what made you decide to write a memoir?
I had been writing a blog for NPR called Monitor Mix, where I wrote about music and culture. In writing those pieces, I found what people connected to most was when I inserted my own narrative into the ideas. 

There are guarded moments and very open moments, but I think the guardedness comes up a little bit when you discuss Sleater-Kinney. I felt like you were being protective of Janet Weiss and Corin Tucker at times.
I think that’s a fair assessment, in that I was very careful about it being my story and my perspective, and it not being the definitive story of the band, which I’m not sure exists. The equality that we aspire to in the band is what I was cautious not to topple or infringe upon in the sense that, “This is my perspective and I’m not going to paint a negative light.”

You write about a lot of embarrassing outfits over the years. Do you have any outfits that you remember with fondness, rather than embarrassment?
I have to say, my comeuppance really came in the second iteration of Sleater-Kinney. Over the years, I kind of learned that it’s a lot about proportions. I’m not even too far from what I used to wear, but it just fits me better. It seems more intentional now. It’s not that I cut off the bottom of these pants with scissors so they’re uneven and literally falling apart on stage. I can buy pants that fit me now.

If you had any advice to tell your younger self, what would it be?
Probably calm down. Just breathe. In some of the writing and some of the retelling, I can sense the anxiousness that I carried around with me as a child and teenager, up through my early 20s. I was just trying to harness this chaos and the instability that was leaving me very untethered. 

Do you think you’ll ever write a second volume, covering the years between Sleater-Kinney’s hiatus and the present?
Yes, I think so. I purposely did not delve into post-Sleater-Kinney or Portlandia because I don’t feel like I have a perspective on that yet. I want a little more distance from it in order to approach it with the same depth and incisiveness that I did with this memoir. 

Click through the gallery to see Brownstein's childhood photos.