Sunday, March 23, 2008

Book Review: Petal Pusher: A Rock and Roll Cinderella Story by Laurie Lindeen

With just two days until my own book comes out, I spent the weekend re-reading Petal Pusher by Laurie Lindeen and writing a book review for

Here is a sneak preview:

I met Laurie Lindeen in Austin, Texas at the South by Southwest Trade Show when our career paths (and feet) intersected in front of booth 327. We were two ordinary Midwestern moms, who just happened to have extraordinary all-girl-punk-band memoirs to promote at the conference. Laurie dropped a copy of her book Petal Pushers in my lap as I sat in the “Rockin’ Moms” booth.

“I’m a rockin’ mom,” she said, as she nodded at the pale pink dust cover now resting on my thighs.

“Are you Laurie Lindeen?” I asked in astonishment. To be quite honest, hearing Laurie speak at the SXSW “Rock Memoir” panel was the only thing I had on my “MUST SEE” list even though some of my favorite acts in the world—the Supersuckers, X, Thurston Moore, Clem burke et al—were in town.

“I read your book,” I gushed. “And I loved it.” And I wasn’t just saying it—I was just meaning it.

I checked out Laurie’s book at the Royal Oak Public library the first week it came out. I was in the process of writing my own memoir Rock Star Mommy and I read it for inspiration. I felt like I had discovered a bosom buddy in the cute blonde I never met but had so much in common with. Like me, Laurie grew up in the 1960s. We were both raised in the Catholic faith in Great Lake states (Michigan and Wisconsin). We both lived in Big Ten college towns (Ann Arbor and Madison) and admired the Minnesota music scene of the 1980s—especially a band called The Replacements. (I had a crush on the band’s lead singer Paul, and she ended up marrying him.) And we both ultimately gave up our big eighties hair and settled down and became mothers. And oh yeah, in the midst of it all, we both started all-girl bands (the Mydols and Zuzu’s Petals) despite being less than stellar guitarists. (By Laurie’s own admission her band sucked for the first couple of years, but she didn’t let a small detail like that distract her from living a Cinderella story—something I can relate to.)

I found Petal Pushers was familiar to my own life, but with one itty bitty difference. Laurie was a legitimate rocker who ultimately became a mom—and I, on the other hand, tried motherhood first and then attempted the rock star thing (and have had about one tenth of her fanfare or success.) Okay, maybe that’s a BIG difference. Still, we have enough in common that it surprises me that it took 48 years for us to be standing face to face, and in the author phases of our lives. I should have defiantly bumped into her in a mosh pit at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor about 25 years ago, instead of meeting her on a day when our maternal instincts led us to be at the Rockin’ Moms booth. All the same, I found her adorable.

The day after meeting her, I attended her “Rock Memoir” panel discussion and I was not disappointed. I began re-reading Petal Pushers (my autographed copy!) on my plane ride home to Detroit. Like so many things in life, it was even better the second time around.

Petal Pushers is Laurie’s story of launching Zuzu’s Petals in Minnesota’s red hot music scene in the eighties, and her journey through the indie rock landscape—with tours across America and Europe. Throughout the narrative she details her relationships with her band mates, management, boyfriends and fans with such loving honesty that it is hard to put the book down. (I read it in a day.) Laurie also chronicles her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis—a secret she hid from her friends—and how it fueled her determination to make it big in the rock world.

But the real pleasure of reading the book for me—someone in a band who has always wanted to hit the gravel but can’t because motherhood tends to be a huge loving anchor—is the intimate picture she paints of life on the road. She dishes out the dirt on touring, with all its ups and downs—including a stint with Mr. “Goodie Two Shoes” Adam Ant. Thanks to Laurie, I no longer feel like I have to (or want to) do it myself. I lived it through the pages of her book and it’s a trip I’ll never forget—like my trip to Austin. I can’t stop thinking about hanging out with Laurie for a few minutes and the thrill of meeting such a beautiful woman and equally beautiful writer.

Petal Pushers: A Rock and Roll Cinderella Story (Atria) $24