What if Bowie were a Woman? the fictional biography of Penny Jones

Warning: This book contains a successful woman

And in the seventies, it was practically unheard of.

What if Bowie were a Woman? Is a fictional biography of Penny Jones – a female carnation of David Bowie living a version of his parallel life.

It’s important to note before immersing yourself in the pages of this book that, while it features Bowie’s real music, with references to real events and musicians – this is not a book about David Bowie or his life. Instead, it’s a book of raw emotion and female empowerment which highlights the struggles that Ziggy Stardust might have faced should they have been born with a vagina and pair of boobs.

Read more: David Bowie Monopoly – the ultimate lockdown board game

Written by Staffordshire author Jade Tideswell at the age of 20 – published under her pen name Kitty Riggs – What if Bowie were a Woman? throws light onto misogyny in the music industry in the sixties, seventies and into the nineties – and frankly, it’s still not been stamped out. The whirlwind novel looks at the forks in the road which led Penny Jones to make her choices with nothing but a burning desire to make music. A dream that was constantly trampled on, spat at and raped just for being a female artist.

Kitty said: “Please understand that I admired David and would never do anything to damage or harm his image. The purpose of David’s influence is to highlight the struggle women dace in the music industry.

“Having an already famed androgynous figure, like Bowie, makes Penny’s story that bit easier to swallow and believe.”

Read more: 50 Years of Bowie With Absolute Bowie

An addictive writing style sees the reader whizz through stardusted pages of Ziggy’s uphill struggle to fame, alongside a whole world of difficult topics, some of a nature which readers may find upsetting, from drug addiction and miscarriage, to mental health and suicide.

What if Bowie were a Woman? explores the question of whether gender can influence people’s chances at succeeding in their career – and Penny Jones’ story is no less relevant today than it was nearly 60 years ago. It highlights the double standard that women are held to, particularly in male dominated industries. There’s a little slice of Penny Jones in every female reader, which is what makes her so relatable.

Between the chapters plagued with drug binges and wild, chaotic stories of tours and travels, there are some really beautiful and emotional stories woven in, like how Bowie got their different coloured eyes, a heartbreaking backstreet abortion, and a stolen London bus.

Along the way, we meet a number of famous faces, including Molly Jagger – female front of The Rolling Stones – Iggy Rock (Iggy Pop), and Julian Hows,  Brixton born LGBTQ+ rights activist.

Audacious and unashamed, Penny was a female rebel with a cause, navigating her career and her journey through womanhood, recording Space Oddity in a treehouse and surviving Berlin when it was still separated by the wall.

While highlighting sexism, ageism and the notion of becoming a mother as a rock and roll star, Kitty Riggs also fosters rocky relationships and fun filled friendships in this tumultuous story filled with hilarity and heartbreak.

The last chapters of the book are my favourite, honouring Molly Jagger’s dying wish to empower as many young female musicians as possible, to ‘stick it to the man’ in a School of Rock meet St Trinian’s kind of institution. If you were looking for a wild child coming of age story – you found it – but it’s packaged with an important political message of societal injustice and labelled ‘f*** the patriarchy’.

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