Scroll through Instagram, and you’ll probably see at least one celebrity post of a book with a white cover with pink and black block lettering sitting next to a fancy mug of tea. To be honest, that is the exact reason why I bought “Not That Kind of Girl” by Lena Dunham. If it was good enough for Tavi Gevinson, Sarah Jessica Parker and other admirable women, then it was good enough for me.
The book is a collection of (very) personal essays written by Dunham, organized into five sections: Love & Sex, Body, Friendship, Work and Big Picture.
I had heard of Dunham before and her show, “Girls,” which is widely loved and respected, albeit controversial. I’ve watched a few episodes, and I can tell you that if you’re a fan of the show, you will undoubtedly be a fan of this book. Both address topics that can be uncomfortable, often involving sexuality, but are topics that shouldn’t be ignored.
While not best known for being a comedian, Dunham still infuses her witty sense of humor into her book. One of the funniest chapters is “Emails I Would Send if I Were One Ounce Crazier/Angrier/Braver,” in which she writes outspoken emails to all of the people who did her wrong, including ex-boyfriends and ex-friends. My only regret is that this chapter isn’t longer.
An added bonus for Ohio readers is that Lena Dunham went to Oberlin College in northern Ohio. Having been on the campus before, it was fun to read about her experiences there. The stories are quite entertaining, as the culture on the Oberlin campus is known to be a little eccentric.
My favorite chapter of the book is “This is supposed to be fun?” about making the most of your education. In this chapter, she talks about school experiences from elementary through college. I especially like an excerpt where she describes the rejection she felt from the head of the English department at Oberlin College. Knowing that even Lena Dunham was told her writing wasn’t good enough at one point gives hope to all aspiring writers.
It is unfortunate that the image of “Not That Kind of Girl” has been tarnished by some controversy. Some commentators accused Dunham of abuse because of her childhood exploration of sexuality, which included bribing her sister for kisses and looking inside her vagina. Abuse between Lena and her sister is an issue that never came to my mind while reading this book, and the controversy shouldn’t overshadow the great points of the book.
Even though I am, on paper, much different from Lena Dunham, I could relate to her story. I am more conservative than she is and come from a completely different background — her parents were liberal free spirits, mine are far from that; she’s from New York and I’m from Norwalk.
Her strong sense of self, however, is something that we can all learn from.
The intended audience is definitely women, and it more specifically speaks to younger, college-age women. I would go as far as to call this “required reading” for any aspiring writers.
The hardcover might cost about $30, but I think it is a book worth adding to the collection. I might want to re-read it in the future, and I found myself underlining passages I liked and taking notes in the margins (nerdy, I know).
Any young woman can gain something from reading “Not That Kind of Girl.” Lena’s quote on the flap really does say it best — “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.”