Lena Dunham has inspired a lot of feelings for such a young woman. For whatever reason, people tend to feel pretty strongly either that she is the worst thing that has happened to her generation or that she’s a funny, brave young woman with some serious talent. However you feel about her or her show Girls or any of her other work, you can’t deny that she has something; if she didn’t, no one would give a shit one way or the other. Personally, I have mixed feelings. I think she’d be fun to have drinks with and maybe hang out occasionally but I have my limits. I am a season behind on Girls, for example, but I don’t like to binge watch it – two episodes at a time please. Not that long ago, I caught her appearance on The Daily Show and was really interested in the conversations she had with Jon and how unlike her character in Girls she seemed. So, for that reason and because it was my book club’s July book, I read Not That Kind of Girl.
I liked this book for many reasons. Lena definitely has a way with words and story-telling. Since she’s such a public figure and generally very open and gregarious it’s not difficult to immerse yourself in her ‘memoir.’ She tells stories of being a young, precocious New Yorker with such flair that you can easily picture her in miniature crawling into bed with her parents or sitting patiently at a therapist’s office. I found myself identifying easily with some of the stories Lena tells; growing up in New York is totally different than my own suburban North Carolina upbringing, but many of her experiences are universal. She tells of girl friendships and their beginning and ending, first crushes and first relationships, college exploration, and what is sadly familiar to a lot of us gals out there, sexual relations that border on criminal (she considers one in particular assault, I luckily cannot identify with that but I had many unhealthy, borderline violating, interactions). Since I do watch her show I found myself wondering which characters from the show corresponded with the real people in her book. I think her chapters on nudity on set were quite enlightening; she has gotten so much flak for her constant nudity and the way she responds here is refreshing. People have said some flat out horrible things about her body and herself and she seems generally ok in spite of it. Aside from an issue with OCD (which isn’t unusual) and a total first-world perspective on life, Lena seems like any other girl you might meet in line at Starbucks.
This book didn’t work 100% for me, however. Her title references things she’s “learned” but I don’t really get a lot from the actual text. Perhaps the title is off – it should be something about what she’s learned from relationships. I wanted to hear more about what she’s learned about writing, directing and acting a show in a world dominated by men. Sure, other ladies out there have done that, but you can’t have too many women giving advice on empowerment. A lot of her stories ended up seeming like they were about how she felt in relation to men in her life, and I wanted more about her professional experiences. I think this is definitely worth a read. And don’t worry, Lena seems well aware that at 28 (I think?), writing a memoir is ridiculous.