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Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America [Paperback]

Ann Powers
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 26 2001 My Bohemian America
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 bohemiawith 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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From Amazon

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Coined to characterize Parisian cafe denizens in the 1830s, the term "bohemian" now refers somewhat vaguely to a lifestyle or attitude that lies outside the mainstream. An acclaimed pop critic for the New York Times, Powers (co-editor, Rock She Wrote) attempts to get inside the soul of modern-day bohemia but ends up muddling its definition even more. Approaching her subject with a mix of techniques, she interviews sex workers, porn purveyors and others among her former roommates; reminisces nostalgically about San Francisco group houses in the 1980s; and, least compellingly, attempts to reveal the glory of today's bohemians in a cultural exploration limited mostly to her own experiences and those of her friends. In the journalistic passages, Powers displays her fine skills and allows her interviewees to shine. When she switches to memoir, the result is mildly engaging, although it flounders when she starts offering such details as who in the household did dishes most often. Yet even a digression about a great chair she once pulled from the trash is better honed than her messy forays into cultural theory, which are full of contradictions and unsubstantiated, sweeping statements. Bohemia is "disgustingly dead," she declares at the outset, then opines at the book's conclusion that it may be within all of us. Powers's "bohemian America" is more a clubhouse for an elite fringe than a country-within-a-country. Those hoping to find true insight into alternative culture should look elsewhere. Agent, Sarah Lazin. (Feb.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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IN 1984, a twenty-year-old punkette with two-toned hair and a plastic raincoat boarded an American Airlines jet and left home, in search of a fantasy that she wanted to make into a life. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesom! Changed my veiws... Jan. 27 2004
By La Lu
This book was well written, thorough, and inspiring. It forces you to look at other sides of the story- look away from convention and focus on the underbelly of socity. The bohemians. Ann Powers explains "bohemia" is more of an idea than anything else, the image of bongo beating hipsters of your mothers and grandmother's era bitting the dust to make way for todays undefined shape. Bohemia, more than ever, is nothing specific to any group of people. This book explores the live-by-the moment impulses and variant lifestyles of bohima, through Ann Powers own memories while growing up in the 80's. _Weird Like Us: My Bohemia America_ renews the ideas of bohemia, moving the rock of conventionalisim to expose a colony thriving alternitive life styles. They have always been there, bohemian culture surfaces all the time, but you just never thought to look- conventional, conservative veiws brishing over them as 'unexceptable. Reading this book will help erase the stigma behind alternative housing, sex, drugs, music. Defenantly not a light selection- but flowing and fun to read. For everyone to read, no one group is intended or unintended to. Defenantly worth the 11-12 bucks.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Everything Changes Except The Avant-Garde Sept. 28 2003
This book in a few words: Everything changes except the avant-garde. Well-written but very navel-gazey and self-absorbed. "Hi, like, I smoked weed, did lots of drugs, had tons of sex with unsuitable people, and then, like, you know, I grew up, and like, got a job and got married, but like, you know, I'm STILL Hardcore Bohemian, man! I'm out there! I'm making a DIFFERENCE!"
Um, yeah.
mmmmmm...um....take this one out of the library, folks.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bohemian Like ME!! Feb. 12 2002
I didn't grow up in the sixties or seventies that is predominantly talked about in this book. I have, however, heard much about it since it is such an impact on our society today. I am a member of the fringe society that powers speak about, and therefore regardless of the time I was born in: I can relate to her. I find her book well written and insightful of the people who never feel they belong and build up "families" of their own. These networks of friendship that are her family and other experiences that she has had: drugs, sex, music, are all key elements of interest to me, and beautifully told in a style of memoir that has a strong cultural narrative subtext. My opinion is: EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS. but then who am i?
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5.0 out of 5 stars really thoughtful book Jan. 25 2002
By A Customer
The people who dismiss this as a personal memoir about the author's life seem not to have really read the book. I was really impressed at how Powers turns a very thoughtful, perceptive spotlight on aspects of our culture that usually go un-analyzed. The chapter on thrift shopping, for example, was a great exploration of this phenomenon--why do people do this? Why does it have meaning? What does it say about them? And the same for drugs, group houses, sex, etc. This isn't just reminiscence by any means, but is an incredibly interesting hard look at WHY these bohemian practices exist, and WHAT they mean to bohemians and (I think this is the real point) to everyone who seeks to fashion a true self in today's culture.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Who the hell says "Bohemian" anymore? Nov. 11 2001
Former New York Times writer Ann Powers' memoirs are a clutsy, misinformed attempt at defining a generation best known for its piercings. The only certainty that arises after making it through this stuff is that she had cool friends, though only a few.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gen X Insight Aug. 6 2001
Before you find yourself swayed by the words of the past reviewers who seemed to have recieved a narcissistic orgasm out of slamming the hell out of this book, I suggest you go to the bookstore, pick up a copy and read a chapter. If you have ever worked retail, especially music, books, or movies, turn immediately to the chapter on the Cultured Proletariat. If you say you've never participated in this rebellious shadow economy, then I say you're a liar. Read it and recognize yourself, but don't laugh out loud...your boss might be watching. Also, Mr. and Mizz Bohemia out there, relax. Don't be so critical when someone actually offers an autobiographical glimpse into those more wild times of thier lives. Many of the past reviewers are not able to see past the one crime Powers committed: she got on with her life and is able to look back and examine the temporal context in which she lived....
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5.0 out of 5 stars west coast cool May 3 2001
By A Customer
I agree with the last review that you can't judge this book by the reviews because Powers is a NYtimes person so the resentment is rampant. And in issues of coolness and "I WAS THERE-ness" there are always problems. But I really enjoyed this book even though it was older than my own experiences on the west coast scene. I grew up in San Diego and Seattle and toured in bands and partied and bounced around the various scenes, etc. and I thought one of the main things this book shows is how vibrant the American west coast culture is and (since I now go to school in pennsylvania) how overlooked it is by the mavens of east coast media. Where did kathleen Hanna come from? I mean, come on. New York is about money and hype and the rest of the east coast is a toxic swamp. One of my other favorite books about this stuff is GIRL which is about the grunge scene in portland and except for that, there is precious little about how much farther advanced the west is than the east. The east coast is so 1900s. come on! Ann Powers probably knew she was going to get ----- for writing this book but she did it anyway and was honest about it and so that's cool.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Growing up boho, by a thirty-something. Rating: "B+"
Ann Powers, age 36, has led an interesting life so far. She's a nice whitebread Catholic girl from Seattle who took her first acid trip at 16; became a record-store clerk, sexual... Read more
Published on Dec 23 2000 by Peter D. Tillman
2.0 out of 5 stars Bad Book, Worse Readers
I don't know which is worse: the book or the reviewers who've attacked it. Almost all these reviews have a comic edgier-than-thou resentment of Powers for getting a book contract... Read more
Published on Sept. 23 2000 by John Dolan
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I purchased this book after reading a glowing review of it in "Mother Jones", as well as being a fan of Ms. Powers music reviews in the New York Times. Read more
Published on Sept. 8 2000 by brjoro
1.0 out of 5 stars I Gave it One Star Because there is no rating of Zero
I remember when this book came out and Ms. Power's employer, the New York Times, gave it two (not one but two) glowing reviews and their rating "And Bear in Mind"... Read more
Published on Aug. 28 2000
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring like us
Bohemia was many things but it was not boring-until now.Ms Powers displays the characteristic arrogant naivete of GenX who have discovered profundities which escaped the previous... Read more
Published on June 24 2000 by Fu Xi
1.0 out of 5 stars Smug Middleclass Entitlement
With all the high adventure of a sack race at a Junior League picnic, a boho wannabe goes forth. The acute self-delusion in this book, written by a self-satisfied New York Times... Read more
Published on June 11 2000 by grindavik
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