Arkansas Punk
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Published in: March-April 2013 issue.


Coal to DiamondsCoal to Diamonds
by Beth Ditto with Michelle Tea
Spiegel and Grau. 176 pages, $22.


GHOST-WRITTEN AUTOBIOGRAPHIES of current celebrities and tell-all biographies by “friends” have long been popular, even if the information in them is suspect. It’s not clear if this book belongs in one of these categories, because it’s not clear how much was written by Michelle Tea, an award-winning chronicler of working-class lesbian life, and how much really comes from the mouth of Beth Ditto, lead singer of the punk band Gossip.

The book is a first-person narrative in the straightforward language of a girl from rural Arkansas who escaped a traditional fate of lifelong poverty and oppression by following her dream. Her story will seem familiar to anyone who has read about the rags-to-riches lives of popular music stars in the tradition of Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, and Loretta Lynn. Even the title of this book seems to echo the title of Coal Miner’s Daughter, Loretta Lynn’s 1980 biopic, filmed before Beth Ditto was born.

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