Lena Dunham Not That Kind of Girl

Lena Dunham Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”

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This book came to me by accident when I stumbled across it in a charity shop for 50 cents. I should confess that I have never seen Girls and I stopped reading Dunham’s newsletter Lenny after just a few weeks. However I used to work with several young women who all loved Dunham and her approach to life and feminism so I was interested to find out more. And of course Dunham takes up so much media space that it is almost impossible not to be aware of her.

October 8th 2012, Dunham signed a $3.5 million deal with Random House to publish her first book, an essay collection called Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned. This is reason enough to find the book intriguing. In these days of self publishing and award winning authors having to go back to their day jobs it is rare to hear of such a large book deal. This is testimony to her fame and Random House’s faith in her ability to sell volumes. One could argue that this is also a vote of confidence in female authors writing about the female experience. Dunham is a self proclaimed feminist and much of her USP circles around this. “There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman,” she writes.

This is not a straightforward autobiography or memoir but instead a collection of essays about herself. Dunham does not shy away from self exposure and using her own life as inspiration. This enable readers to connect with her and feel moments of kinship. Although this relentless self investigation can also be a turn off for others. Sections covered include Love & Sex, Body, Friendship, Work and The Big Picture. I particularly enjoyed the chapter Emails I Would Send If I Were One Ounce Crazier / Angrier / Braver. Having sent one of those emails I can confirm that it is not the sensible thing to do but it does feel fantastic. At the end of it is difficult to know though how much she really has learned, as ideas of self worth and belief seem to still trouble her. It seems exhausting to be so continuously self conscious.

Although this was an enjoyable enough read I am perhaps less interested in Dunham than Dunham is and for me there were very few of those ‘I recognise that moments’. The parts that stood out for me most were where Dunham talked about her health difficulties with clarity and honesty. I didn’t really need so much information on diet and her interest in therapy.

The collection is written in the conversational and easy going style of a natural writer. I read through this in one day and very much enjoyed her fluid writing style. Not That Kind of Girl opens a window into a different way of life. Her privilege and experiences as a woman and a writer are so different to mine which made this an entertaining read. It was enjoyable if not worth a revisit.