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Rat Girl 

Kristin Hersh (Penguin)

Life should have been grand for Kristin Hersh: Throwing Muses was about to become the first American band to be signed to seminal label 4AD Records. But right before her 1980s indie band began recording its first major album, Hersh was quietly dealing with a personal hell. As a result of a traumatic bike accident she starts observing colours in her music. Mania strikes, and Hersh sees visions of bees and snakes. After a round of doctors and confusing diagnoses, young Hersh is declared bipolar and put on meds. Then the 18-year-old discovers she is also pregnant. Phew. Rat Girl, Hersh’s memoir of that precarious time in her life, should have been the bummer bio of 2010, but it’s filled with such wry humour and honest teenage observations that it bypasses all the usual rock memoir cliches. Memories of smoky clubs, bad interviews (music journalists, take note) and rodent-infested apartments are cut with diary entries and snippets of song lyrics inspired by real events. More of a tale about growing up than music or mental illness, this is teenage joy and ennui at its most entertaining.

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