Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto has just released her first book, Coal to Diamonds. Though her band’s recently released album, A Joyful Noise, debuted in Billboard’s top 100 in the U.S. and managed to reach the top five in four European countries, life wasn’t always so great for the singer. She recounts some of the tougher moments in her memoir with help from writer Michelle Tea.
Her punk education began in high school under the tutelage of a group of teens—her second family—who embraced their outsider status and introduced her to safety-pinned clothing, mail-order tapes, queer and fat-positive zines, and any shred of counterculture they could smuggle into Arkansas. With their help, Beth survived high school, a tragic family scandal, and a mental breakdown, and then she got the hell out of Judsonia. She decamped to Olympia, Washington, a late-1990s paradise for Riot Grrrls and punks, and began to cultivate her glamorous, queer, fat, femme image. On a whim—with longtime friends Nathan, a guitarist and musical savant in a polyester suit, and Kathy, a quiet intellectual turned drummer—she formed the band Gossip. She gave up trying to remake her singing voice into the ethereal wisp she thought it should be and instead embraced its full, soulful potential. Gossip gave her that chance, and the raw power of her voice won her and Gossip the attention they deserved.
She also opens up about her battle with sarcoidosis, a rare immune-system disorder that attacks the internal organs (and killed comedian Bernie Mac in 2008), and her help from Portland and other communities at a time when she had no health insurance and was not yet a celebrity.
Marked with the frankness, humor, and defiance that have made her an international icon, Beth Ditto’s unapologetic, startlingly direct, and poetic memoir is a hypnotic and inspiring account of a woman coming into her own.
With her usual blunt and unapologetic storytelling, Coal is still a poetic journey of a talented woman coming into her own.
You can order the book now on Amazon or from your local book store.
About Alley Hector
Alley Hector is proud to be a Q, a PDXer and Just Out's Editor-in-Chief.