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Book Review: Coal to Diamonds by Beth Ditto/Michelle Tea

Coal into diamonds

So I was pretty excited for this biography to come out, and I was lucky to be at the top of the waiting list at my library. I snatched it off the holds shelf and read it in a day! Coal To Diamonds is co-written by Beth Ditto  (a really powerful singer and performer) and Michelle Tea (a fairly brilliant writer)- two stars in the queer pop culture world.

Structurally, it’s a fairly typical famous person biography. Written in first person, it begins in Ditto’s childhood, travels through her coming of age as a queer punk singer, and sort of ends in the present as a successful performer (in the UK, at least– the US mainstream hasn’t really “gotten” The Gossip yet– though I think i heard one of the songs in the teen section at a Nordstrom store once).

Despite the convergence of two personalities who I totally like into a single book (omg, dreamboat combo), I feel lukewarm about it. The pacing was kind of uneven (childhood gets a LOT of weight, whereas interesting elements of adulthood are totally skimmed over), and it lacked a certain poetry and poignancy– two things that Tea is very capable of. The final product makes me feel like the 2 collaborators were far from BFF status by the time the book was done. It felt like a business deal being grudgingly fulfilled by two somewhat unwilling parties. I feel bad saying that! Because honestly, it’s not a bad book at all. You should read it if you’re a feminist or queer or like music or like being inspired. I just feel like it could have been more.

find a copy here

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