Dynamic and always on the move, southern chanteuse Beth Ditto has a lot more to her story than just music — as if that wasn’t enough. So the buzz has begun over her much-anticipated memoir, Coal to Diamonds, even though a release date has still not been set.
Hipster dyke novelist Michelle Tea, author of occasionally shocking but sincere stories such Rent Girl, or the seminal San Francisco dyke manifesto Valencia, is helping her craft the tome. This should be an interesting mix. Gregarious but very down to earth, Ditto is usually pretty straightforward in the way she communicates, using her southern drawl to tell it like it is. Tea, on the other hand, is free and frisky as any fiction writer with her adjectives, describing details in a way that the boisterous Ditto might merely proclaim.
It is also going to solidify its readers as queer bohemian feminists with just an edge of cool. Successful in targeting an audience, it remains to be seen if reviewers will take a sort of grown up riot grrl aesthetic seriously. My hope is that they will. The rambunctious ’90s teenagers have grown into sophisticated artists with a keen third wave feminist perspective that definitely could use a little more notice and critical acclaim.
I expect all this to feature prominently in the Ditto/Tea combo, but what might be even more exciting is seeing the way Tea will reconstruct Ditto’s life story. The memoir will explore Ditto’s childhood in Arkansas, her experiences in becoming a music icon, a “lesbian diva,” trials with self-image, and self-love.
“My life was supposed to be simple and non-negotiable: birth, church, work, marriage, kids, death,” Ditto says, “but along the way something happened. Coal to Diamonds is my story — growing up feeling like you are on the margins of society and struggling to find your place. My memoir talks directly to disenfranchised, misunderstood kids everywhere.”
Ditto clearly has plenty of source material to work with, and the book release will come at a time when homophobic teenage bullying and gay suicides are in the news and youth continue to need public support. But I’m especially excited that this incredible content will be crafted by lesbian storyteller extraordinaire Michelle Tea.
Beth Ditto went from trailer park heaven, being crazy poor in the deep south, to the damp and welcoming arms of the a music hungry Pacific Northwest (Olympia, Washington then Portland, Oregon). Though she still spends much of her time there, she has also moved on to the UK, in a sense, where her mainstream popularity is so much greater.
All these great shifts have influenced her music and will surely make for an engaging book. I have little doubt that there will be just enough Behind the Music style gossip to balance out the tender way Tea portrays intense situations. Because let’s be real, I’m not the only one that wants to know all the juicy details of the breakup between Beth Ditto and her partner of nine years, Freddie Fagula.