This week we're taking a closer look at Powell's Pick of the Month High School by Sara and Tegan Quin.
As for so many, high school was a crucible for Sara and Tegan Quin, during which they discovered their identities and developed their voices. Alternating chapters, they share stories that are both universal and utterly unique, much like their music. — Keith M.
It’s not a surprise when celebrity musicians write beautifully crafted memoirs (especially talented lyricists like Patti Smith
and Bruce Springsteen), but it certainly elevates the already heady fan experience of being invited into their private thoughts and memories. Really good rock memoirs like Born to Run
or Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl
transform what could be a predictable biographical narrative (think of any biopic, ever) into a psychologically astute portrait of a budding artist and the world they’ve grown up in; when the writing is deft and thoughtful, fans and casual listeners alike walk away with a deeper appreciation for the unique impetus and skill behind a person’s music. Indie pop musicians Tegan and Sara Quin do just this in their dual memoir, High School
, which thoughtfully articulates their coming-of-age, a process both ordinary — love, identity, experimentation — and extraordinary due to the sisters’ early musical success and unusual perspective as identical twins.
If you’ve somehow missed Tegan and Sara, they’re a pop duo from Canada probably best known in the States for the radio single “Walking With a Ghost” from 2004’s So Jealous
. In addition to releasing nine studio albums over the last 20 years, the sisters are career advocates on behalf of LGBTQ girls and women and run the similarly focused Tegan and Sara Foundation. Parsing out their individual experiences of discovering their queer identities and coming out is a central focus of High School
; in alternating chapters, Tegan and Sara are candid about their early boyfriends and girlfriends, and the discomfort and exhilaration of accepting themselves. The sisters are equally upfront about the difficulties of being identical twins, an already unusual relationship that is strained and strengthened by their shared career. Indeed, although it’s interesting to read about the Quins’ introduction to music (gateway drug: The Smashing Pumpkins) and development as multi-instrumentalists and vocalists, the most fascinating element of High School
— and where the writing goes from good to revelatory — is in Tegan’s and Sara’s different approaches to thinking about twinness. Or perhaps “approaches” is the wrong word; from the book’s early chapters it’s clear that being an identical twin has fundamentally altered the way the Quins conceptualize independent identity. In Tegan’s words, they share a “tangled nature” that is both reassuring and suffocating. In Sara’s, “Without Tegan I had become me. And it was awful.”
The sibling tension of “I love you, I hate you” is intensified by twinship’s “I am you, I am not you,” complicating the Quins’ side-by-side accounts of their high school years and making for a fun, thoughtful reading experience. A surefire pick for the legions of Tegan and Sara fans, and an excellent choice for older teens, High School
is the kind of sharp, revealing rock memoir that keeps even the least musically inclined among us returning to the genre.
Check out the rest of our Picks of the Month here