She could kick Legs McNeil’s ass.

Alice Phallus, aka Alice Douche Bag, and/or Alice Bag was born Alicia Armendariz. A teacher changed her name from Alicia to Alice because the Spanish version was too hard to pronounce. She is first-generation punk, forming her band the Bags in Los Angeles in 1977—the same year a fellow named Sid Vicious replaced bassist Glen Matlock in a band called the Sex Pistols. Vicious died young, of course, and became a clichéd punk rock poster boy for all of eternity. Bag is alive and continues to be an inspiration and an icon, especially to female musicians. She went on to embrace her Latina roots as a bilingual teacher in inner-city schools, and with her bands Cholita! (a pop-punk "female Menudo" act with queer performance artist Vaginal Davis) and Las Tres (acoustic folk music, written from a Chicana perspective, which led to a spin-off called Goddess 13). Now her music and influence are featured in the traveling Smithsonian exhibition American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music. What's more punk rock than bucking tired clichés?

Unlike present-day media darlings Lana Del Rey and Lady Gaga, Bag's personal history doesn't include silver spoons or rubbing elbows with the well-to-do. "Like so many kids who grew up poor, I didn't recognize it at the time," writes Bag in her new memoir, Violence Girl: East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage, a Chicana Punk Story. "Everyone in my neighborhood was poor, so I had nothing to judge by." Bag's parents gave her a small donkey-shaped ceramic bank when she was a child, and her father gave her a dollar every time he got paid, so she could save for college. Years later, her beloved donkey disappeared from her dresser. Her dad took it to pay the rent. "Never trust anyone but yourself," he said. "You're the only one you can count on." Does growing up poor as a first-generation American kid in a Mexican family living in East LA give her instant cred? No, it doesn't. But it sure lends complexity to her voice when she screams onstage, "She's taken too much of the domesticated world, she's tearing it to pieces, she's a violence girl."

The first few chapters of Violence Girl read almost as a young girl's diary by way of S. E. Hinton (author of tough teen fiction The Outsiders and Tex), all mixed up with some of Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. There is intense human struggle in her account of growing up immersed in domestic violence in a male-dominated family. The fact that she spins the unfortunate events and circumstances of her childhood into strength and personal power—joining several strongly female-dominated bands and then eventually happily marrying and having children—is absolutely inspiring. She never becomes resentful or the victim. She identifies herself as a feminist, but aren't feminists supposed to be man-hating bisexuals, totally incapable of marriage? If you think that, read Violence Girl. I bet you reconsider your definition of the F-word.

How many female-fronted punk bands can you name from the late 1970s? Alice Bag and Patti Smith were riot grrrl before the term existed. Both women blazed trails, simultaneously, on opposite coasts. Bag tore up stages with a ferocious yowl at live shows—commanding respect at the sausage party that was the SoCal scene—and her striking and forever iconic "vampire goth" photo appeared on the cover of Slash magazine in 1978. She was also featured in a raucous live performance in the cult documentary The Decline of Western Civilization. Smith, with her music and fuck-it-all androgyny, was making her own history in NYC—alongside Blondie and the Ramones—with a softer and more poetic style. This would later be documented in Legs McNeil's punk bible Please Kill Me and Smith's recent memoir Just Kids. An empowered punk ethos exists in all three of these historical literary music journals, but in Violence Girl, we also find a thoroughly moving story of personal triumph. recommended