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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
Format:Paperback
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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5.0 out of 5 stars west coast cool May 2 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
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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Format:Hardcover
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 adventuress & conscientious drug-user in the Bay Area in the 80's; and is now a pop-music journalist and bohemian sellout in New York.
For one who played at the edge of Bohemia in the late 60's, it's fun to read about a more-serious boho of the following generation. Starting with high-school alienation (is there anyone who's gone through adolescence in America in the last 50 years who *didn't * feel alienated?), Powers falls into Bad Company -- indie rock, soft drugs and (mostly) safe sex.
She drops out of college and moves to San Francisco, America's western Capitol of Cool since (at least) the Gilded Age. She makes friends, shares cheap apartments with wildly-assorted roomates, takes lovers, menial jobs and quite a lot of dope. In short, she was growing up and having fun, albeit in a more, umm, colorful milieu than most of us manage. It's good stuff, guaranteed to bring nostalgia for your own misspent youth. I'm thankful to have had a much quieter coming-of-age, but it's fun to read about someone who had a harder go of it.
Finally she gets the Big Break -- a call from the New York Times, asking her to work for them as a pop-music critic! After much agonizing -- not the least about leaving California for New York -- and a push from her boyfriend (now husband), she makes the leap to Upper Bohemia, gets married, buys a house in Brooklyn, and moans & groans about Selling Out. I'd skip over the last pretty lightly, if I were you -- "did I really think I could resist the temptation of moral emptiness, like some Boho Joan of Arc?" etc.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Bad Book, Worse Readers Sept. 23 2000
Format:Hardcover
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 when she's not nearly as cool, her little goatee not nearly as pointy, as the reviewers (most of whom are so cool and courageous they submit their reviews anonymously).These pedantic dweebs attack Powers on the grounds that she writes too much about her own experiences and is not sufficiently edgy or abstract. What drivel! That's not the problem at all. Her anecdotes about living in communal flats in SF are the best part of the book. Only a provincial fool could assert (as several reviewers have done) that personal anecdotes like the ones Powers tells are not valid social history.
In fact, as long as Powers is telling stories about her life, she's a decent writer. But she's too insecure to let her stories speak for themselves. She frames the stories with painfully clumsy, forced Presidential-speech oratory about How Bohemia Can Make Our America Stronger. Clinton himself would gag at the rancid treacle Powers pours on her perfectly good, sufficient memoir.
It's a striking example of one of the great paradoxes of contemporary history: Americans, who see themselves as pragmatic, anti-ideological folk, are in fact the most ideologically oppressed and oppressive nation in the world, unable to talk about anything at all without descending to utterly meaningless sloganeering.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Everything Changes Except The Avant-Garde
This book in a few words: Everything changes except the avant-garde. Well-written but very navel-gazey and self-absorbed. Read more
Published on Sept. 28 2003 by Threemoons
5.0 out of 5 stars Bohemian Like ME!!
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. Read more
Published on Feb. 11 2002 by Alan Y. Chen
5.0 out of 5 stars really thoughtful book
The people who dismiss this as a personal memoir about the author's life seem not to have really read the book. Read more
Published on Jan. 25 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars Who the hell says "Bohemian" anymore?
Former New York Times writer Ann Powers' memoirs are a clutsy, misinformed attempt at defining a generation best known for its piercings. Read more
Published on Nov. 11 2001 by "monahar"
4.0 out of 5 stars Gen X Insight
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... Read more
Published on Aug. 6 2001 by william a. willey
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. 27 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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