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'The Girl Must Die': A Raw And Raunchy Call To Arms

Erika Lopez could not have known she was releasing her raucous, racy and hilarious breakthrough novel Flaming Iguanas at the end of an era. It was 1998, and despite the 1990s being a decade of riot grrls and Manic Panic, a time when girls had rock goddesses like PJ Harvey, Sleater Kinney, Hole and Bikini Kill to emulate rather than rock gods to fawn over, it was all about to disappear.

Post-pubescent pop stars took over, the 'zine culture died off and Courtney Love became plastic surgery roadkill. Suddenly, Lopez -- a performance artist and cartoonist as well as novelist -- was out of fashion, her spunky, prickly, foul-mouthed writing style and tales of booze, men (and women) and motorcycles did not fit in with the current milieu of pre-packaged stardom and yoga spirituality.

"'Erika Lopez is an American original!.... Lopez won't have to worry about food stamps in the future!'" read one Flaming Iguanas review. Twelve years later, in her new The Girl Must Die: A Monster Girl Memoir, Lopez responds: "Well, not only do I have to worry about food stamps again, I just had to go and add welfare. Welfare."

The Girl Must Die delves into Lopez's vivid personal history: her abduction by her father during a custody dispute; her upbring by a radical feminist mother who took up with women after her marriage failed; the prostitutes and bad influences who were her childhood companions. But, ultimately, the book is more manifesto than memoir. Lopez is longing for another cultural shift, for our entire society to go through a rite of passage. "The girl must die," she tells us, so that the woman can live.

She relates her own sense of failure -- her hitting-bottom moment came while waiting in line for social services, wearing the shoes of a friend who had killed herself -- to a society that rewards greed and brought itself to economic collapse. Lopez credits her own creative resuscitation to founding a community -- Monster Girl Media, which published this book -- of artists, filmmakers and writers who collaborate and promote each others' work. She wants the culture that is currently in love with girlishness, Brazilians and Barbie blondes like Paris Hilton, to rediscover the loud, inappropriate woman. And Lopez is certainly loud and inappropriate.

The Girl Must Die is heavily illustrated with Lopez's artwork, mixing graffiti, tattoo and comic-book styles with wild abandon. Her writing is a similar amalgam of breathless tirade, stream of consciousness, aphorism and traditional autobiographical narrative. The result is a call to arms. "Do whatever it takes to finally grow up and have a full slice of pie, because we need you and all that you know." She wants to rally the monster that lives in every girl and bring back the gritty, guitar- and gun-slinging women who disappeared after the 1990s. I'm a Monster Girl. Are you?

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Jessa Crispin