Praise for Start with the Backbeat

Start with the Backbeat is the touching story of one idealistic young woman’s journey into the music industry when it was at its multiplatinum peak. Holding onto those ideals is a challenge, but Garine Isassi’s clear, smart, good-hearted storytelling is itself a blow against easy cynicism. She reveals a sharp eye for how quickly greed and self-interest can displace a love of music—and an equally sharp understanding of how a dedicated person’s daily principled decisions can make sure that doesn’t happen. It’s a tale that’s both poignant and uplifting.”
—Anthony DeCurtis, Contributing Editor, Rolling Stone magazine

How we hold on to our authentic selves in the face of change is the reverberating question behind Isassi’s witty and knowing first novel. A singer-songwriter turned fiction writer, she presents a slice of late-1980s New York as change not only descends upon her protagonist, Jill Dodge, a post punk rocker from Texas, but also upon the city itself at the start of the digital transformation (remember typewriters?) and the emergence of a very different music scene. Jill recently received her first promotion at Mega Big Records, and her assignment is to land the newest, hottest type of artist, a genuine gangsta rapper complete with danger, drug deals, and all the complications of life in a poor, violent neighborhood that type of performer is expected to embody. But nothing and no one are quite what Jill assumes, including the cute Hispanic guy installing Mega Big Records’ first computers. When Jill’s job, reputation, and love life are all on the line, will she be able to follow her instincts and push past stereotypes to find what’s real and meaningful?

“Told with an insider’s ear for dialogue and setting . . . Start with the Backbeat is a fresh, interesting look at a little-known slice of the music industry.”
—Sarah Pekkanen, best-sellling author of The Opposite of Me and Catching Air

“Music, friends, family, love, and a career anyone would envy! It’s 1989 and Jill Dodge is working her way up the ladder at a NYC music label. Her quirky friends and diverse co-workers saunter in and out of Jill’s life as she attempts to create a world that’s artistic but also pays the bills. Insight into the glamorous world of music as rap was coming on scene provides a backdrop that is unique and dynamic as we watch Jill move past post-college angst and insecurity. A fun read that brought a smile to my face and got my feet tapping as I went on Jill’s journey to fulfillment.”
—Kathleen Shoop, bestselling author of Love and Other Subjects

“A joy ride through the heyday of the eighties rap craze with a heroine you can’t help but root for, Start With the Backbeat is smart, stylish, and fun from beginning to end.”
—Kamy Wicoff, author of Wishful Thinking

“Fast-paced and entertaining, Start with the Backbeat is about a young woman’s search for love and success in the exciting but sometimes cutthroat music industry. It’s a fun and heartwarming―a genuine pleasure to read. Like your favorite tune, you’ll find yourself humming it for days.”
—Andee Reilly, author of Satisfaction

“Garinè B. Isassi’s funny, tender, and smart novel, Start with the Backbeat, is one of the few books that give us a woman’s point of view of the music industry and an ethnically diverse range of characters. Set in the late ’80s, it tells the story of Jill Dodge, who, after several years as a temp in the Admin Pit (think, ‘armpit’) of Mega Big Records, is promoted to a staff position. The brisk pace and breezy style keep the reader turning pages as Jill struggles to maintain authenticity in the face of clueless execs, romantic snafus, and a wannabe rapper. Isassi skewers the racism and sexism at the core of the industry with a light touch while evoking the deep love of music that drives each of her delightfully unique characters.”
—Céline Keating, author of Layla and Play for Me