We're trying something new for Lit Thursday: Instead of recommending books every week, we're going to be recommending some memorable magazine articles by and about women. This week, Lenny's deputy editor, Laia Garcia, writes an ode to Spin 's entire "Girl Issue" from 1997.
It is not unusual for a person to describe a book they particularly identified with, or learned something from, as "my Bible." And although at different points I have definitely done the same ( Catcher in the Rye in my teens, I Love Dick in my late 20s, etc.), the one true constant publication that actually functioned as my de facto guide to the world was the November 1997 issue of Spin . The one with Fiona Apple (of course) on the cover. The one dubbed "The Girl Issue."
I very clearly remember buying this issue at our local Walgreens. It was Fiona's relentless, "over it" gaze that attracted me like a moth to a flame, and I am still so glad that when I brought the issue to my mom, who was standing at the check-out line, she agreed to buy it for me.
In 1997, much like today, there was a surge of feminism, except back then it was called "Girl Power" (thank you, Spice Girls!), and this issue is pretty much a collection of articles, interviews, and lists on the state of Girl Culture at the time — starting off with Ann Power's essay about the state of feminism now (the '90s), titled, very aptly, "Everything and the Girl." Reading it again this week was a wild ride, as I simultaneously felt all the same things I did when I first read (and read, and reread) the magazine that I did when I was thirteen years old, but also because I realized how much of it could've been about the state of feminism now, even though it's two decades later.
There's, of course, a profile on Fiona Apple, with iconic photographs that I was disappointed were taken by Terry Richardson but remain too iconic to be damaged by his trash-ass self (she is burying herself under a couch cushion). It's funny because now I am older than she was in those pictures, but when I see her, she still seems like a strong woman to me (as opposed to when I see pictures of a young Kurt Cobain, and all I can think about is, Aww, he was such a baby! ). It's weird to read all the adults' takes on Fiona and see how much they differed from my view of her as a kid.
The real pièce de résistance was "Girls! Girls! Girls!," a piece edited by Maureen Callahan and Kim France (who later founded Lucky magazine ). It became my literal guide on what things to seek out and get involved with. Reading back through it, I now realize the list was a little tongue-in-cheek, but also, it wasn't wrong? And growing up in Puerto Rico, with spotty access to whatever rudimentary Internet existed back then, and no older siblings to guide me through the world of what was cool, it really didn't matter if they were snarky about shit.
Among the most important things on the list were: witches, Kurt Cobain, Daria, bare midriffs, Drew Barrymore's lower-back tattoo, Jordan Catalano, body glitter, and snowboarding; a list of books every girl should have on her book shelf ( The Bell Jar, Go Ask Alice, Weetzie Bat, Scum Manifesto ); a list of CDs every girl should own (Elastica, The Breeders, Salt-N-Pepa, Stevie Nicks); a sidebar on important moments in girl history (Nadia Comaneci scores the first perfect ten at the Olympics, Amy Fisher commits murder); and a sidebar on important movies ( Clueless, Times Square, Heathers). It remains the most formative listicle of my entire life.