There has been a lot of buzz about Lena Dunham’s book Not That Kind of Girl. I’ll be honest: I’m not an avid Girls viewer and was rather indifferent on Lena Dunham before picking up her book. That being said, I do think she’s a talented writer and while I’m not typically a lover of anecdotal books, I thought I would give this one a try.
Dunham’s book is broken out into five sections: Love & Sex, Body, Friendship, Work, and Big Picture. The Star calls it a “mixed bag of emotions” which I tend to agree with. Dunham is witty and honest as she tells tales of growing up, losing her virginity, taking drugs, trying to fit in, feeling isolated and depressed, finding love (or something like it, along the way) and cheerfully awkward moments. Amidst the sometimes-overshare of information lies humorous one liners like: “He called me terrible names when I broke up with him for a Puerto Rican named Joe with a tattoo that said MOM in Comic Sans.” (Pg. 70) As I read, it was often candid descriptions like this that actually had me laughing as opposed to the subject matter of each story. It’s the capturing of those little details that makes Dunham’s writing compelling.
I read through the first half of Not That Kind of Girl rapidly, in fact, faster than I have read through any other books of this nature. However, halfway through, my pace started to slow. There were a few somewhat pointless sections throughout the book that almost act as fillers, and this most likely contributed to my slowed tempo. I could say this about the section titled What’s in My Bag, but truthfully, I love what Dunham says about eyebrows too much to dump it into that bucket: “An eyebrow pencil because I overtweezed my eyebrows like every child of the nineties and am now stuck with what my sister calls balding caterpillars. Weak eyebrows = weak presentation. It’s like having a bad handshake, but worse because it’s right on your face.” (Pg. 110).
I’ll say one thing about Dunham: she is a strong woman, despite her self-proclaimed weaknesses. The fact that she owns up to her issues, discusses personal fears, flaws, struggles and misgivings so candidly, and says the things that so many others are thinking but no one else is voicing, showcases Dunham, while sometimes controversial, a fierce feminist and a creative, honest leader. She states things in a way that makes you feel as though you are having a truthful conversation with a good friend.
Here is another one-liner that made me think of the term girl-crush in a different light: “…being in possession of a gay sister, I find the term “girl crush” slightly homophobic, as if I need to make it clear that my crush on another woman is not at all sexual but, rather, mild and adorable, much like… a girl.” Pg. 127
There have been some terrible accusations written in the press lately about one of the chapters regarding Lena and her sister. I don’t want to repeat the allegations, but you can find them on Google if you’re interested in reading what was said. My opinion is this: Dunham loves and cares about her close-knit and quirky family, and I think that can make a huge difference to someone as unique as Lena growing up.
And while her parents seem like free spirits, in the section 17 Things Learned from my Father on Pg. 192, two of Mr. Dunham’s good pieces of advice were:
- It’s never too late to learn.
- You don’t need to be flamboyant in your life to be flamboyant in your work.
While I don’t believe in everything Lena Dunham says, does and thinks, I do have a lot of respect for her. She’s raw, real, and honest… and it’s refreshing. She’s got some great stories and a gift for telling them. Her talent for composing sentence structure and writing descriptions and word flow helped me to dig deeper in my own writing, and I actually told her that when I met her a few weeks back at the Toronto Reference Library. (She had stayed for hours signing every single fan’s book and spoke to each person individually; I was pleasantly surprised).
So do I recommend Not That Kind of Girl?
Short answer: yes.
Long answer: It depends on the reader; it depends what you like (I can obviously say this for all books, but I do think fiction is a bit more cross-platform). I do think that there are a few hard things to swallow for the ultra-conservatives but, then again, I’m sure the ultra-conservatives aren’t Dunham’s target demographic. The beauty of Dunham is that she doesn’t claim to know it all; she simply states that she hopes her mistakes and her stories come in handy for her readers. Dunham is a great voice for the arts industry and for feminism, so if you like quirky anecdotal stories that will make you laugh and feel as though you’re in good company, pick up a copy!
I’ll leave you with a quote from the last page of Dunham’s book, one that encompasses some of the overarching, intended themes throughout, inspiring women to go for what they want and learn from their actions and mistakes:
“You’ve learned a new rule and it’s simple: don’t put yourself in situations you’d like to run away from.” (Pg. 262)