Girls to the Front: The True Story
of the Riot Grrrl Revolution
by Sara Marcus
Harper Perennial. 367 pages, $14.99
ANYONE whose life was impacted in even a small way by the punk-feminist subculture known as Riot Grrrl will find it hard to read Sara Marcus’s thoroughly researched history of the movement and remain seated throughout. From its inception, traced here to 1989 and the creation of the band Bikini Kill, through the dissolution of most of its organizational hubs by 1996, Riot Grrrl existed in an emotionally amplified space. The fierce unity of the first small tribes that sprung up in Olympia, Washington, and Washington D.C. contrasts with the fire and fury at male privilege that inspired some of the movement’s finest work—and occasionally burned the girls themselves. Riot Grrrl was many things, but quiet or simple it was not.
Girls to the Front—the title comes from the young women who pushed to the front at punk shows, linking arms for protection from the mosh pit—dispenses with one formality common to most nonfiction.