I’m not sure if reading all these terribly problematic books is good for my health, but the reviews of them are my most popular posts… *sighs* *writes IOU one soul to Satan* Here are my thoughts on the controversial Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham.
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
From the acclaimed creator, producer, and star of HBO’s Girls comes a hilarious, wise, and fiercely candid collection of personal essays that establishes Lena Dunham as one of the most original young talents writing today.
In Not that Kind of Girl, Dunham illuminates the experiences that are part of making one’s way in the world: falling in love, feeling alone, being ten pounds overweight despite eating only health food, having to prove yourself in a room full of men twice your age, finding true love, and, most of all, having the guts to believe that your story is one that deserves to be told.
Exuberant, moving, and keenly observed, Not that Kind of Girl is a series of dispatches from the frontlines of the struggle that is growing up. “I’m already predicting my future shame at thinking I had anything to offer you,” Dunham writes. “But if I can take what I’ve learned and make one menial job easier for you, or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine will have been worthwhile.”
First things first (I eat ya brainzzz), I will admit to having a love/hate relationship with Lena Dunham. When she first appeared on the showbiz scene, I took an instant dislike to her; I genuinely cannot remember why? After much hype and press, I started to watch her show, GIRLS, and from that I began to like her. However, I stopped watching GIRLS after two seasons as I became bored of watching rich, white girls prancing around New York. You guessed it, I began to dislike her again. I wasn’t particularly desperate to read Not That Kind of Girl but the critical reviews of it piqued my attention, and I wanted to see for myself if it was terrible as claimed.
Yes, yes it is.
Not That Kind of Girl (I can’t even be bothered to type the full name of this book) is split into 5 parts – Love & Sex, Body, Friendship, Work and Big Picture – and you would think that she offers a lesson to be learned on each of these subjects. Whilst the book initially does start off with Lena promising to tell you what “she has learned” so that you too do not make the same mistakes, the book begins to mutate into something else entirely.
The book becomes less of “what I’ve learned” and more “look at how amazing/quirky/weird I am“. Let me be clear, I am in no way saying that girls should sit there and be quiet. I fully champion women to shout about their hard work and achievements from the rooftops, but in this instance I am not sure where Lena’s success came from. She received an amazing opportunity, a chance to produce a pilot of her own TV show, but she doesn’t talk about HOW that happened. Did she stay up all night, writing and rewriting? Did she take on an unpaid internship and worked her way to the top, Devil Wears Prada style? Seriously, can someone enlighten me on how she did it because I cannot find anything in HER BOOK that talks about it. The most Lena talks about education is where she is practically boasting about how little work she did at school, simply sailing through life on her “natural talent” for writing. The most she talks about work is bragging about a low-effort, high paid job selling baby clothes. This could have been an amazing opportunity to share how she got her TV show to those who dream of being on TV, or writing for TV, or any kind of “showbiz” writing at all, but no, this isn’t a lesson she wants to teach you. *waggles finger*
NTKOG (I can’t be bothered to type it out anymore…) is filled with highly personal stories from Lena, which I believe was supposed to tell you what “she had learned”. However, *sighs*, coming from a self confessed unreliable narrator, it is hard to connect or empathise with her or her stories. I swear I read two different accounts of her first period. Some of the stories she shares are hard to believe, and most come across as exaggerated tales for attention. I cannot imagine a young girl being allowed to share her bed with complete strangers because she doesn’t like sleeping alone. That is just one example of the many stories you will read in this book…
I am aware of the controversy surrounding this book, in particular her account of her sexual assault and THAT sister story. Both of these issues have been extensively commented upon and as I have nothing new or different to add, I will not discuss them any further. Whilst I can understand why Lena spoke out about the sexual assault, I am not sure why THAT memory of her sister was included, as it doesn’t paint Lena in a good way whichever you look at it. *shrugs*
I cannot deny that Lena is a good writer. She is. However, my opinion of her has not changed for the better after reading. I probably like her even less now.
I am genuinely puzzled as to why NTKOG has been dubbed a “feminist” piece of work. She does not offer anything new to the feminist movement. At all. Whilst she has encountered sexism and sexual assault, and I do feel for her in that regard (I’m not a complete monster), her life has been a very privileged one, free from racism, poverty and discrimination. Even though I briefly related to Lena as it appears she suffers from the same anxiety disorder as me, I could not relate to her life of vast wealth and privilege and my feelings of empathy disappeared. If I, a white, cis-gender hetero girl, could not relate to this book, how could a
woman of colour, or indeed a trans woman possibly relate to this book?
You may think I am being unnecessarily harsh, but there is nothing more frustrating than someone being given an amazing opportunity to do something worthwhile, yet doing nothing. Lena was given a lucrative book deal with one of the largest publishers in the world, and she was more inclined to talk about how amazing she is, and what a weird child she was, rather than actually write a book worth reading. I can only hope that in a few years Lena looks back on this, realises the error of her ways, and does something worthwhile with her platform and influence. A girl can dream, right?
Overall, Not That Kind of Girl left a bad taste in my mouth. Even though it came to only 300 pages on my Kindle, it seemed to go on forever, and I was beyond relieved to finish it. I would not recommend this book in the slightest, but if you want to read it and make up your own mind about it, borrow it from your local library instead. It ain’t worth tainting your bookshelf for – ha!
Have you read this book? What did you think? Am I being too harsh, or not harsh enough?