Today I am marking off my third #3 checkpoint category for the POPSUGAR READING CHALLENGE 2020 with:
ARIA Award-winning singer and actress Clare Bowditch confronts her inner critic in this no-holds-barred memoir.
Clare Bowditch has always had a knack for telling stories. Through her music and performing, this beloved Australian artist has touched hundreds of thousands of lives. But what of the stories she used to tell herself? That ‘real life’ only begins once you’re thin or beautiful, that good things only happen to other people.
YOUR OWN KIND OF GIRL reveals a childhood punctuated by grief, anxiety and compulsion, and tells how these forces shaped Clare’s life for better and for worse. This is a heartbreaking, wise and at times playful memoir. Clare’s own story told raw and as it happened. A reminder that even on the darkest of nights, victory is closer than it seems.
With startling candour, Clare lays bare her truth in the hope that doing so will inspire anyone who’s ever done battle with their inner critic. This is the work of a woman who has found her true power – and wants to pass it on. Happiness, we discover, is only possible when we take charge of the stories we tell ourselves.
‘I was not born to be like other girls. I was going to be my own kind of girl.’
In this often overwhelming, busy and pressured world, it is hard to find the time to take stock and recognise that what you are feeling is normal. Clare Bowditch’s memoir, Your Own Kind of Girl, is incredibly frank and honest, but also universal, speaking for many of us around the country – of all ages and creeds.
At the formative age of just twenty one, Clare Bowditch, now a successful singer/songwriter made a pledge, that she would one day pen a book. That wish has now come true and Bowditch channels her flair for songwriting into a different piece of writing, a memoir of her life. Clare’s story begins with her happy, but also sad childhood, marred by the loss of her older sister. Bowditch ploughs through her moments of anxiety and body image issues. Her loves, lost and gained are shared. Her moments of pure despair, heartache, confusion and elation are laid bare. Most of all, Clare reveals her struggle to gain the upper hand over the most fault finding figure of all – her inner critic. This is a memoir that will give others a sense of understanding, as well as the strength and power to seize the day and start a promising new chapter in their lives.
I was urged to read Your Own Kind of Girl by not only my favorite book blogger, Theresa from Theresa Smith Writes, but also two more of like minded bookworm friends. I know that Theresa is not a huge fan of memoirs, so when she declared that ‘I have never read a more meaningful memoir’, something made me stand up to attention and reach for a copy of this book. My initial encounter with this book was to shelve it in the category of another celebrity memoir. I honestly thought it was about the songwriter’s musical journey, her break into stardom, her awards, touring and celebrity status. I was very wrong in this assumption. Your Own Kind of Girl charts the singer’s loving, but also grief filled childhood, her difficult adolescence and teen years. Bowditch’s twenties were defined by anxiety and heartache, while her adult life was still overshadowed by the black dog of insecurity. There are light references only to her career, which I appreciated, as this memoir is focused directly on the experience of negotiating life as a woman in today’s society.
Your Own Kind of Girl is organised in a clear and readable format. There is a brief letter of introduction, followed by twelve chapters that relate to episodes in Clare’s life. These chapters are named after Clare’s songs, which I am ashamed to say, I was not aware of Clare’s music prior to this book. The twelve chapters are followed by an epilogue and an additional resources page. I thought these extras were very thoughtful, especially if some of the subjects covered in this book encourage the audience to seek help. A lengthy acknowledgements section, extending thanks to many well-known Australian figures rounds off this moving memoir.
Clare begins her moving journey with a chapter titled ‘Happiness’, which is followed by ‘When I was five’, which encompasses a childhood that was filled with moments of pure happiness and comfort, along with utter sadness and despair. The reader learns about the terrible and confusing disease that afflicted Clare’s older sister when she was a child, the lack of understanding and treatment of the disease, along with the eventual loss of her sister to this disease. It is upsetting and it will appeal to your heartstrings. It made me frustrated and angry that in this era, when I was a child too, there was a clear lack of understanding around the debilitating illness that consumed Clare’s sister. Despite it all, this family is surrounded by love and support, which touched me very much.
A death in the family is sure to shape any young person and it did have an impact on Clare. Not long after the loss of her sister, Clare become aware of her body, which she saw as completely different to her peers. It led Clare on a journey to change the shape of her body and the resulting eating habits haunted Clare for many years. I found this aspect so raw, confronting and but also discerning.
As Clare matures and enters the formative years of her adulthood, she goes through the rites of passage that many of us have experienced at this time in our lives. I found this stage of Clare’s life connective. She experiences heartache, career exploration, travel and she continues to dream about one day making it as a singer. I could relate and I did feel her moments of pain, realisation and pure agony. I think this is where I would easily say that Your Own Kind of Girl is a book for the masses, it has ubiquitous appeal.
We journey on with Clare as she flourishes into a young woman, with the same battle scars many of us have acquired during our lives. The moments where Clare meets her soul mate and finally breaks into the music industry are poignant. However, Clare never really leaves all the suitcases of her past behind – the family and childhood grief, the struggles over her body, the anxiety and that voice that continues to tell her she isn’t quite good enough.
Last month, Your Kind of Girl was shortlisted in the highly regarded Indies Book Awards, in the nonfiction category. Clare Bowditch’s memoir puts up a good fight and it is a strong contender to take out this category. I am glad I took a chance on this one and listened to my valued bookish friends. You should open your heart and mind to this responsive memoir, which is full of understanding. Your Own Kind of Girl will definitely spark a, ‘that’s me too’ response.
‘And what I learned was this: it might sound daggy, and you might have heard it a million times before, but Ron was correct when he told me that , sometimes, what starts at a breakdown really can become the moment you look back on a breakthrough, as the moment in which you started to live your own kind of life.’
**** 4.5 stars
Your Own Kind of Girl by Clare Bowditch was published on 28th October 2019 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Your Own Kind of Girl, Clare Bowditch, visit here.
Your Own Kind of Girl is book #8 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge