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“Not That Kind of Girl” Book Review

Lena Dunham has many titles: actor, director, producer, and screenwriter. She can now add published author to the list. “Not That Kind of Girl” is Dunham’s first book. It’s described as a collection of personal essays, but it is more of a disjointed memoir with bits of advice thrown in. Her highly acclaimed HBO show, “Girls,” is like that, too. Stories from the front lines of that strange period between college and adulthood are often linked to her personal experiences. At the tender age of 28, Dunham does actually have enough material to fill a book, and more books, as it seems she has more stories to tell. That is the message she wants to get across. That women have stories that are valid, that should be told. “As hard as we have worked and as far as we have come, there are still so many forces conspiring to tell women that our concerns are petty, our opinions aren’t needed, that we lack the gravitas necessary for our stories to matter,” she laments in the introduction. Her tales may not be about overcoming extreme adversity, but they do delve into the deep waters of womanhood and coming of age and you come out feeling that someone out there understands. Dunham says, “if I can take what I have learned and make one menial job easier for you […] then every misstep of mine was worthwhile.” But, if we are to tell our own stories, we need to make our own mistakes. The book serves more as a reminder that we are not alone in our seemingly irrational worries or our self-doubt, insecurities, and self-loathing. She expresses thoughts I have had, but would never think to say aloud, “I want to be enlightened, but it also sounds boring.” She admits to making bad life choices and mistakes and who can’t relate to that? She recounts embarrassing, cringe-inducing moments that you are sure happened way before her success, before she got it all together, but, you come to find, it’s from her recent past. She is a big Hollywood player that goes through awkward moments, handles them poorly, but lives to tell the tale. There is a perception that celebrities are immune to everyday trials and humiliations, but Dunham breaks that perception. There is a genuine humanness to her writing and reading it can feel like having a heart to heart with a good friend.

She is as candid in this book as she is on her TV show and in her life. Although, many times her self-proclaimed self-involved quality can be tiring, you have no doubt that she is being real. The essay format seemed to be a cop-out instead of writing a straight-up memoir. You know the girl has it in her, but here she has put it in the form of disconnected rambling prose. It is difficult to keep up with her sexcapades. It would have been helpful to be able to use her “Intimacy Database” as a reference guide. The chapter on Friendship left much to be desired.  I was expecting the entertaining drama of beautifully complicated relationships between girlfriends, but it was just some near misses of lesbian encounters and an ode to her sister. Her chapter on Work includes a (justified) rant on the gender gap in the industry. Rather than elaborate on her experiences of inequality, she breezes through it as she describes what her 80-year-old self would reveal in a tell-all memoir. If someone as truthful and unafraid to be truthful as Dunham uses this technique to sneak in her thoughts on the matter, then who is going to just come out and say it? Many of the essays end with the reader knowing there is much more to be said. Maybe that’s the point: to start a dialogue about things that need to be discussed, for women to continue the train of thought with their own stories.

 

 

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