Coal to Diamonds is a Short, Empowering Read for Punk Rock Fans
The punk rock, feminist, femme, & lead singer of the band Gossip, Beth Ditto, has written a book called Coal to Diamonds: A Memoir that is both honest and inspiring. While reading, you can’t help but feel you are witnessing a butterfly hatch from a cocoon. Held inside empowering herself with self-discovery while the outside world does its best to break through the shell.
The book starts with Beth Ditto describing her childhood home, Judsonia, Arkansas, a small town where keen get high with coke cans, then shoot squirrels to fend off their munches. Her vivid detail about her hometown helps you enter her world, especially in an innocent, loving way before revealing the many downfalls of her family and town. Rape, sexism, and sexual abuse are common themes both in actions against members of her family and herself. Some of the stories are appalling, and I will leave it to the book to explain.
During Beth Ditto’s high school years she holds opinions about being a feminist (at the age of 12) and speaking up about pro-choice. Her own self awareness grows as she references her weight and how she feels it is part of her identity, and begins to have gay feelings (despite having a boyfriend). In addition, she befriends a group of teens that includes future Gossip guitarist Nathan Howdeshell (now Brace Paine), drummer Kathy Mendonça, and Jeri (her first crush). Within this friend group, her punk rock ideology blossoms like a flower in springtime that has withstood a long winter.
Olympia, Washington comes calling when her friends move to its location, only for Beth Ditto to follow. They find community and refuge in this creative town where eventually they form the band, Gossip. Never at any part, while she mentions her stage presence or her singing (two of her most talked about traits for any who sees Gossip), does she ever seem to boast or brag. In the most humbling way, she reveals it as part of her and something she naturally did, which I find beautiful.
I must say Beth Ditto is empathic in every situation that comes throughout her life. Most likely due to her upbringing (and she mentions this), she does her best to view the world from another person’s perspective. You can see it with this line in particular from the chapter in which she describes her gender identity and her love interest (at the time) Freddie’s gender identity:
He made gender identity make sense to me, and he made my sexual identity make sense to me.Coal to Diamonds: A Memoir by Beth Ditto with Michelle Tea
The entire book is filled with gems like the quote above, and they go beyond gender identity. Beth Ditto explains her views and stances so clearly, one can’t help but share in her empathic nature.
Goes without saying, I enjoyed reading Coal to Diamonds: A Memoir by Beth Ditto with Michelle Tea. It wasn’t long (154 pages) and took me an afternoon to read. While the world seems to present an idea of what is “perfect” from a materialist and beauty standpoint, Beth Ditto illustrates using her so-called “flaws” as badges of honor showing how a person may walk this planet by being unapologetically themselves. What can be more punk rock than that?
Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls
Before I go, Beth Ditto mentions Rock Camp!, or Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, in one of her chapters. It is a non-profit organization which “builds girls self-esteem through music creation and performance. Providing workshops and technical training, we create leadership opportunities, cultivate a supportive community of peers and mentors, and encourage social change and the development of life skills.” Seems like an absolute wonderful thing.
I did a bit of research and found that you can give to this organization in various way. If interested, check out – girlsrockcamp.org/ways-to-give.