Review by Hannah Louey
Lena Dunham’s autobiography, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”, is what some would call ‘highly anticipated’. The writer, director and star of the phenomenally successful TV show, Girls, Dunham was paid a whooping $3.5 million advance for her book on essays about herself. Now, if only I can find a way to get someone to pay me $3.5 million to write a book about myself…
Not That Kind of Girl is the autobiography of Lena, but mostly it deals with issues that a lot of women face, regardless of where they live. Lena discusses her OCD, urge to lose her virginity, fear of not fitting in and problems with trying to be someone that she isn’t – both in looks and personality. While her writing is funny yet honest, the best bit about Not That Kind of Girl is that it wraps the reader in and makes them go ‘Oh! I know what that feels like! I’ve been there!’. And while there are some truly harrowing moments that Lena recounts (such as the time she was raped), she recounts them in a way that is neither shocking nor attention seeking: rather, she tells it in a way that says ‘if you’ve been in this situation too, that’s OK. You’re not a bad person and you’re definitely not a weirdo’.
If I’m completely honest with you, about 50% of me bought this book because it was cheap for a hardback and I really liked the look of it. While I’ve seen episodes of Girls and I like how Lena Dunham is an ‘out and proud’ feminist, I also haven’t paid a great deal of attention to her. As a result, I was happily surprised not only by the stories that she had to told, but the open and witty way that she went about telling them. Even though Not That Kind of Girl is essentially a group of essays, it doesn’t read like one. Instead, throughout the book I kept thinking ‘that’s me! I’ve been there!’ and I was left with the feeling that perhaps I wasn’t as odd as everyone keeps telling me I am. (Seriously guys, I swear I’m not that weird.)
One issue about Dunham though was that I was kinda disappointed by Dunham’s background. For someone who titles her autobiography ‘Not That Kind of Girl’, in a lot of ways, she really is. While I think she’s great, there was a part of me that was kinda frustrated by the absolute cliche of her life – grew up in New York to successful arty parents, used her connections, spent most of her time bludging at uni and them BAM! released a successful television series about a girl and her friends living in New York. I mean, really? While none of this is of course Lena’s FAULT, for someone who grew up in a country town, population 6000, and who would love to be a writer who lived in New York City, it did cut a little deep. Despite how phenomenally successful and talented Lena may be, she still probably got there because of who she knows. So, damn it.
Aside from that, admittedly selfish, rant, overall Not That Kind of Girl is a highly enjoyable read. Lena Dunham’s writing is self-deprecating (so unusual for an American), witty, insightful and inclusive. While she is discussing issues about her life (obviously, it’s an autobiography), at no stage does she come across as self-absorbed, but rather it’s as though she is presenting her life events in a way that says ‘take one. I know you’ve been in my position too, so let’s just hang together’. And while it is targeted for a young female audience because out of everyone we’re the ones who will resonate with it most, I still think it would be valid for a lot of other people.
Have you read Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl? Are you a fan of Girls? Do you know anyone who would be willing to give me a $3.5 million book advance? To all of the above, please let me know![share]