‘Punch your way into the party’

A new coming-of-age memoir by Denver author GoGo Germaine explores punk rock and gender politics on the Front Range

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Glory Guitars: Memoir of a ‘90s Teenage Punk Rock Grrrl is out Oct. 11 via University of Hell Press.

Author Erin K. Barnes, who writes under the pen name GoGo Germaine, calls herself a “pretty typical Coloradan.” But the adolescent at the center of her new book Glory Guitars: Memoir of a ’90s Teenage Punk Rock Grrrl is anything but run-of-the-mill. 

Barnes, whose sophomore literary release arrives via University of Hell Press on Oct. 11, says she didn’t fit the good-girl mold that was expected of young women in the suburban Fort Collins neighborhood of her youth. That’s when she discovered the Riot Grrrl scene, a feminist subgenre of punk marked by ferocious guitars, breakneck drums, and a healthy dose of gender politics. 

“From a young age I was considered a weirdo for liking punk music and not being into the usual girl stuff. I liked to read Lester Bangs and play the drums,” Barnes says. “In polite Fort Collins suburbia, people look at you if you’re wearing black and chains like you’re troubled.” That sense of not fitting in courses throughout Barnes’ feedback-drenched memoir. The 39-year-old author calls it “a story of punk rebellion,” drawing from her own coming-of-age experience on the northern Front Range with a squad of “precocious teen punk girls who did whatever we wanted to do.”

Of course, it didn’t take long for Barnes to find her way from Fort Collins to Boulder and its well-worn history of counter culture. She followed her sister, who moved to town to attend CU Boulder—“I basically lived with her and partied while she went to college,” Barnes remembers—before pursuing her own degree in writing at Metro State University in Denver. 

“I loved being in the city and riding the bus around Capitol Hill and reading Jack Kerouac and all that good stuff,” she remembers of those early days in the metro south of her childhood home. 

But the change of scenery offered Barnes more than a chance to catch up on her favorite beat writers. With some space to reflect on her own punk rock youth, Barnes arrived at a lesson for navigating conformity that animates her new memoir. “Someone who looks ‘troubled’ to you doesn’t need to be diagnosed or psychoanalyzed,” she says. “Maybe there’s something wrong with society, which we know there is.”

‘The feeling of rebellion.’

When it comes to the origins of her discontent, Barnes points to a formative memory of ditching school in junior high. The simple act of cutting class and running with abandon through a nearby field proved to be a defining experience for the emerging author.

“I became bewitched by this simple memory,” she says. “I wanted to capture the feeling of rebellion, and that memory from my past sort of gave rise to the book.” 

Within the pages of Glory Guitars, many readers will recognize that longing for independence and individualism, whether or not they share Barnes’ particular punk-rock life experiences.   

“[Glory Guitars] is a chronicle of misadventure,” she says. “It’s that feeling of stealing a cigarette from your dad and going into a field with your friends to share it.”

But despite its universal themes, the highly specific world of the ‘90s Fort Collins punk scene looms large in Barnes’ new memoir. The self-described “elder millennial” says the accessible, angst-driven genre gave her and her friends a voice in a world dominated by men. “The best thing about it is that you just kind of punch your way into the party,” Barnes says. “I think punk is essential to female liberation. In the current day, I think we need more of that.”

That punk sensibility is clear from the cover of Glory Guitars, which features photos from Barnes’ youth collaged into an approximation of a concert flyer by designer Joel Amat Guell. Taking the concept a step further, the book comes in a variety of bright dayglo colors from Portland, Oregon-based publisher University of Hell. 

But despite the slapdash style resembling the DIY aesthetics of the music at its heart, Barnes’ memoir represents the culmination of plenty of hard work. She hopes the final result will offer hope to others who feel out of place.

“I wrote the first draft in about a week and then I spent a year refining it,” she says. “There’s a lot of hopelessness in the world these days and I wanted the book to be a kick in the face, full of energy and rebellion and fun.”

As for its title, Glory Guitars is lifted from a passage in the text that reflects the author’s take on the freedom of her youth and the music that moved her.

“It came from my view of a romanticized adolescence awash in glory guitars,” she says. “I’m forced to reckon with the dark and light things that have happened in my life, and the book is about embracing both.”

Glory Guitars: Memoir of a ’90s Teenage Punk Rock Grrrl (University of Hell Press) is available for pre-order ahead of its Oct. 11 release date at universityofhellpress.com.  

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