Monday, February 23

12x12: Not That Kind of Girl

Not That Kind of Girl
by Lena Dunham

As a huge fan of "GIRLS," I was way too excited to learn that Lena Dunham was going to write a book, and again, way too excited when it finally came out! I was desperate to read it and it was getting great reviews... then that whole bit about the sister molestation came out. I was shocked, to say the least, and couldn't believe that this girl who I respected could have done something like that (though don't we all feel like that when horrifying things come out about celebrities?). I read the excerpts with confusion, and when Grace Dunham refused to classify herself as a victim, I knew I still wanted to read the book and decide for myself how I felt about it - especially the excerpts which had been getting so much attention.

What I Loved:
  • Lena has a really distinctive writing style, and I truly enjoy hearing her voice in her work, whether it's in GIRLS or in this book. It feels like you're in the basement of your best friend's house, playing truth or dare, and your best friend is spilling her secrets - some of them silly, some of them intimate, some of them dark, and some of them terribly sad. It feels honest and genuine, which is why I think Lena Dunham's work speaks to so many people in the first place.
  • There were definitely parts in the book, especially relating to her past (and current) love interests that spoke to me very deeply. I connected a lot to some of the relationships she'd had, and the relief at being with someone who made you feel like you were worthy and respected again.
  • It was genuinely entertaining for most of the book - you get sucked into the stories she tells, and it feels real.
  • I've heard criticism that Lena's life story is just sooo different than most people's that it wasn't relatable, and I think that's valid. She certainly did have a very different childhood than I did - dealing with disorders, paranoias, naked mothers, private schools, and lots of counseling - but there were parts in every quirky story where I really did relate. Maybe it was talking about AIM, or about having a certain kind of friend in college, or going to summer camp, about disordered eating, but I did find areas where I could relate, even in the "strangeness" of her background.

What I Wasn't Crazy About:
  • There was a part about a fourth of the way through where I got kind of bored and didn't especially want to keep reading. It happened again near the end (talking about her working at a child's clothing store), but I made it through those dry spells and was entertained with the stories afterwards.
  • There are times in the book where you can tell Lena's writing the story to shock you or show how weird she is/was. I think you can take those as you will - I decided early on that this was a real person and that I enjoyed seeing into her mind, even if she was a little too self-aware. But I can definitely see how people would find that style annoying or uncomfortable.
  • A lot of stories seemed familiar... because they had been featured on "GIRLS." I was disappointed that Lena couldn't have found inspiration out of something besides her own life to base "GIRLS" on - I'm such a fan of the show that I'm hoping there's something more to it than stories from Lena Dunham's own life.

And the inevitable parts about her sister... Having read those passages, all I can really say is that, in context, and having gotten used to Lena's style, neither of the stories that got circulated seemed especially weird in the book. It seemed like Lena talking about her childhood and the weird things she would do. It didn't come across as predatory. For example, the parts about wanting affection from her sister seemed very gross out of context. In context, it actually reminded me a lot of my family and the desire to have attention and love from the people you love. The story about her sister having pebbles in her vagina seemed more like a story Lena and her family told over Thanksgiving dinner than a story about molestation. Lena wrote at length about her little sister refusing to sleep anywhere but in Lena's bed, and while she did admit that she masturbated in bed next to her at some point, it seemed more like out of desperation than a sexual act done because of a desire for her sister. And maybe those stories seemed less predatory in the book precisely because Lena Dunham wrote them and had the chance to tell the stories in the way she wanted. She's the author, she's the story-teller, and she's in control of what stories are told and how. Having read the whole book, those stories didn't seem out of place or predatory, but again, that doesn't mean they weren't.

Would I Recommend This Book?
  • For certain people and absolutely not for others. I found it an entertaining and intimate read, ut it didn't seem fully-fledged yet, and I can definitely see why some people would be uncomfortable with Lena's "open-book" kind of attitude about writing about her own life. Some might even call it "TMI." I liked that aspect of it, but that's a personal opinion.
  • I have a friend who read about half of it before stopping - not because she was insulted or offended, but because she reached one of those points where she got bored and couldn't bring herself to read more. I had those points too, but one of the frustrating great things about a project like this is that I have to finish the books regardless, haha.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Did you think those passages about her sister were out of line?

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