Ani DiFranco, “No Walls and the Recurring Dream” (Viking)
Ani DiFranco has spent decades challenging the status quo, standing up for what she believes and creating honest, raw music. Her memoir is an extension of these passions. Looking at her lyrics over the years, it has always been clear: She cherishes the written word. In the pages of her memoir, “No Walls and the Recurring Dream,” she carries on this love affair.
Those familiar with the work of DiFranco — a Grammy Award-winner who founded her own record label and has a career spanning over 20 albums — know she is not one to shy away from her opinions.
It is not uncommon when listening to her work to hear a verse that speaks out against patriarchy, the death penalty or the government’s imperialism. So it comes as no surprise that in her memoir, DiFranco does not hold back.
“No Walls and the Recurring Dream,” is unapologetic, steadfast and vulnerable. It’s as if DiFranco has invited you into the living room of her New Orleans home to have a long discussion about how she got to where she is — from creating her first record to meeting Prince and recording in his home.
Readers who are already DiFranco fans are offered a window through which to better understand her music (just in case you’ve ever wondered about the story behind “Untouchable Face”). She gives you the rich context of her past and passions that have culminated in emotional verses and honest storytelling through the years.
The book also stands alone, for those who haven’t before encountered DiFranco. She is vulnerable in a way that is brave — she recognizes the imperfect moments in her existence just as she acknowledges her own triumphs. The honesty of her introspection encourages the reader to look internally as well. “Whatever the thing is that you are resisting the most, whatever thing will be the most painful, that is the thing you must do,” she writes.
To her credit, DiFranco meets the reader where she or he is. Yes, she has strong opinions, but she makes it clear from the onset that she is not just someone who talks; she is also someone who listens. You don’t have to be a staunch liberal or feminist to appreciate what she has to stay and the stories she has to tell. DiFranco does a brilliant job of walking this line. She won’t sugarcoat her own opinions, but she also leaves room for a conversation to unfold.