Book: GRRLS ON THE SIDE
Author: Carrie Pack
TWs: Homophobia, biphobia, fatphobia, racism (specifically towards Black women), sexual assault.
I received a free eARC of GRRRLS ON THE SIDE by Carrie Pack through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The year is 1994 and alternative is in. But not for alternative girl Tabitha Denton; she hates her life. She is uninterested in boys, lonely, and sidelined by former friends at her suburban high school. When she picks up a zine at a punk concert, she finds an escape—an advertisement for a Riot Grrrl meet-up.
At the meeting, Tabitha finds girls who are more like her and a place to belong. But just as Tabitha is settling in with her new friends and beginning to think she understands herself, eighteen-year-old Jackie Hardwick walks into a meeting and changes her world forever. The out-and-proud Jackie is unlike anyone Tabitha has ever known. As her feelings for Jackie grow, Tabitha begins to learn more about herself and the racial injustices of the punk scene, but to be with Jackie, she must also come to grips with her own privilege and stand up for what’s right.
The first thing I want to tackle is this synopsis. Tabitha is not uninterested in boys. Claiming that she in the synopsis immediately erases Tabitha’s bisexuality- something she defends several times in the book. Also, this book does not explore the racial inequality in the punk scene. It just doesn’t. There is a scene where Jackie is called a racial slur by a white man and all that’s said of it is “That happens all the time.” Does Tabitha ever come to terms with her own privilege? No. Does she ever really stand up to for what’s right? Besides sometimes reminding people that she’s bisexual and writing a zine where owns her fatness, no.
When I requested this book, I thought this was going to be about intersectional feminism in the early punk scene. That’s not what this is, at all. This entire book is about white feminism, three Black girls who get thrust in the middle of it, and someone occasionally saying “Hey… maybe that’s not cool.”
I made a list of things that bothered me in this book and I want to briefly (well, maybe briefly) discuss them.
- Tabitha is a minor. She is 16 years old and both of the relationships she is in on page are with people 18 and over. Kate is 19/20 and Jackie is 18. While the gap isn’t that large, it was very very troubling to read Jackie trying to entice Tabitha (who is a minor and a child) to run away from home.
- “Ignore the racism” is an line in the book. Tab’s mom is talking about a movie but this seems to be a prevalent theme in the book.
- The feminism in the book is ciscentric. It revolves completely around ciswomen.
- It’s also white feminism. Marty is always downplaying race by saying “No, WE ALL experience these things as women.” While there is overlap in things Women of Color and white women face, WoC face brutalization on a completely different level.
- Throughout the book, bisexuality is reduced to “being undecided”. While Tabitha does sometimes refute this, more often than not, she just thinks it’s not right but doesn’t speak up. There’s also a part in the book where her girlfriend accuses of her of being an indecisive person and brings up her sexuality. **I will include an actual passage below this list.
- There is a line from the MC that states you can’t be androgynous if you have big boobs.
- When Marty calls Jacking “ghetto”, Jackie is not defended. ***I will include passage below
- It takes a white woman explaining the racial issues WoC face to Tabitha for her to understand that it’s real despite the fact that her Black girlfriend and Black friends have explained this to her numerous times. And then the white woman says “Don’t beat yourself up over it.” There’s another segment where one of the white girls claim that she’s never “seen” racism, so it must not exist.
- When Tabitha is assaulted at school, her then girlfriend tells her she’s “blowing it out of proportion” because she knows the guy. Even though he assaulted Tabitha, Kate keeps telling her that he’s “harmless”. This is never corrected. Kate does make a pathetic apology through her zine, but it doesn’t actually correct what she said.
** (Loc 1785-1790 on Kindle)
***(Loc 1853 on Kindle)
I would not recommend this book to anyone. I’ve seen people giving this good reviews… and not surprisingly, they are white cis women. If you read this expecting a book about intersectional feminism, you’re going to be disappointed. Real Riot Grrrls wouldn’t put up with this mess.