Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America

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9780306810244: Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America
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American bohemia is alive and well and redefining the way all of us live, love, and work: so declares Ann Powers in an invigorating blend of criticism, journalism, and autobiography that takes us into the heart of alternative America today. Powers, one of the nation's most notable music critics, explores how the generation that inherited the counterculture assumptions of the sixties is transforming youthful rebellion into a sustainable alternative style of living—creating a new bohemia with dynamic citizens who are reinventing shared values from the ground up. Through stories from her own life and those of her comrades—artists, writers, entrepreneurs, queers, and cyber-outlaws—Powers traces the evolution of this world and celebrates those who keep bohemia thriving from coast to coast.

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Review:

In a thoughtful mixture of autobiography, journalism, and cultural criticism, Ann Powers examines how "bohemian" culture--which many consider dead and buried--has seeped into the American mainstream. While writing extensively about her own trajectory from communal living and a dead-end record-store job in San Francisco to cohabital bliss and a staff position as a rock critic for The New York Times, Powers also takes great care to include the perspectives of her peers, even when their impressions clash violently with her own. In doing so, she turns Weird Like Us into a frontline analysis of how the members of (dare we say it?) Generation X try to find significance and purpose in their lives.

"It's hard to shock most Americans," Powers notes in a chapter on the shifts in sexual politics and culture. "But it's hard to engage them, too." Weird Like Us shows how this applies to many other aspects of social life besides sex: experimentation and variance have become increasingly normal in everything from drug use to pop-music styles, but with little or no conscious reflection on their consequences. Without that self-awareness, "alternative culture" risks becoming nothing more than an empty pose. "For too long we have united only within a culture of rebellion. What we need to refuse is the negativity that comes from always defining ourselves against a society we can't help but live within." For Powers, acknowledging and accepting one's position within mainstream culture isn't an act of "selling out," but an opportunity to act, in an individual capacity, as an agent for social change, an example of a good life worth living. Weird Like Us demonstrates that you don't have to be a cultural conservative to believe in "values," and Powers's emphasis on integrity, respect, and self-consciousness adds a new and inspiring voice to progressive cultural criticism. --Ron Hogan

About the Author:

Ann Powers writes about music and culture for the New York Times. Her work has appeared in major music publications including Spin, Rolling Stone, and Vibe, and she is the coeditor of Rock She Wrote: Women Write About Rock, Pop, and Rap. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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9780684838083: Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America

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Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2000
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