By Chris Valles
Former Elan Alice Bag’s first book “Violence Girl” reveals violent experiences and real life-struggles.
Subtitled East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage: A Chicana Punk Story, “Violence Girl” serves as a memoir about Alice’s experiences growing up in East L.A. and coming of age in the 1970’s Hollywood punk scene.
The book also details her short-lived career as vocalist for The Bags, a pioneering punk band whose influence extended to the 1980’s hardcore and mid-90’s Riot Grrl scenes.
Born Alicia Armendariz, Bag was raised in an East L.A. barrio by her Mexican father and American-naturalized mother.
The book details her chaotic upbringing in an era in which many of the kids in her community would leave middle school in a body bag or en route to juvenille hall.
Resisting the culture of aggression at first, Bag would come to embrace violence as a necessary tool to gain respect before escaping to the Los Angeles punk scene.
Her performances on stage are legendary.
Most performances were filled with violence, bloody-lips and the occasional broken nose. Throughout the book, the topic of violence is recurring; most of the abuse stems from her father.
The stories about Bag’s dad are hard to read. The level of cruelty of his wrath would make anyone cringe.
Bag does not hold back. She tells her life story with raw passion and takes no prisoners.
The book is not laid out in chapters. Instead, it’s broken down into short segments that pack a punch, each its own individual story in its own right.
While some segments provide a sense of hope and triumph, others have the impact of profound despair.
A prominent feature of the book is a series of stories relating to her education. Coming from a Spanish speaking household and attending an English speaking school, Bag struggled to balance the two worlds.
She attended school in an era in which discussing the routine discrimination faced by Latino students was taboo. In one scene, Bag recalls a teacher making fun of her for speaking with an accent, humiliating her in front of her classmates.
In another, she describes the slurs and taunts she endured from other children.
One person who encourages her during this time was her father. Paradoxically, he is also the one creating havoc in her house.
His violent outbursts kept the family walking on eggshells, always thinking twice when choosing their words.
A chapter of the book is titled “Daddy’s Knockout Punch.” Alice refers to him as a monster, at one point adding, “…everything I know about the deep, dark, ugly side of mankind, I learned from my father.”
Bag always had a deep and profound passion for music. Her book recounts her early musical career, with her dream of forming an all-girl band, but somehow always coming up short.
She describes the normal adolescent challenges of balancing school and a boyfriend, coupled with the pressures of being in a popular band.
Throughout the memoir, Bag finds herself being challenged emotionally and spiritually. She even ends a close friendship with punk rock cult icon, Darby Crash over a heated debate about God.
“Violence Girl” is a memoir filled with raw human emotion and will appeal to both punk rock aficionados and those interested in examining the human condition.
It is also required reading for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of what it’s like growing up in one of America’s low-income neighborhoods.
Through “Violence Girl”, Bag emerges as a different, yet important voice in the L.A. narrative. Along her journey, she challenges her own perspectives, ultimately gaining an appreciation for life without losing her core identity.