In the first two years of Lena Dunham’s HBO show Girls, everyone wanted to be like her. She’s an auteur after all, unafraid, and bold, doing her thing on her own. Years later, and one racial controversy over, her show is about to end and many young girls like me who have cried over the season finale of the first two season, fantasized about the independence and life in New York, listened to the soundtrack she curated, have moved on to other female role models like Beyoncé or Emma Watson. As for me, it’s Mindy Kaling.
I’m not saying she’s no longer famous or relevant. I’m also not saying that I have forgotten about her. I’m saying this in the context of my friends who have loved her and had moved on to more lesser known specimen and heroes but stronger, especially when we had delved deeper into feminism and the first ones who were there and weren’t part of Taylor Swift’s cult called the ‘squad.’
Ever since her book came out, I’ve always wanted to get one of my own. I even marked it as ‘must-buy’ in my GoodReads shelves to remind myself to buy my own copy. Some part of me thought that it was going to be some kind of Bible for me even if it was all about being a woman (which to me translated to as a ‘coming-of-age’).
Then, three months in America and being a patron of a library district, I passed by a copy of this book, sitting at the bottom of the shelves, its pink font popped out of its dull-colored neighbors. Add to that is Pulitzer Prize critic Emily Nussbaum’s tweets regarding the newly improved season of Girls. So yeah, I took this book out and ran for the car after two weeks of contemplating and finishing the books I borrowed before.
Not That Kind of Girl isn’t as relatable as the other female celebrity/TV bosses memoirs that I’ve read: Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, and Tina Fey (and soon, Schumer’s!). It’s very different. It’s not like talking to a cool best friend like all the other books I’ve mentioned. It’s more ‘literary’ if there is such a thing, bordering on fiction with a dash of experimental, and lists.
I’ve figured that Dunham’s memory isn’t as sharp as the stories she narrated from her three year old self. In fact, she is, as she had proclaimed in her book, an unreliable narrator. And to be honest, I don’t think we should really care. I do think she ‘remembered some things in an artistic way’ (this is a Lady Gaga reference, Youtube Marry the Night). At one point in every memoir, or in writing one, we become unsure if we’re recreating a memory with imagination or telling it as it is.
The thing is: creative nonfiction is not at all concerned with the purity of the truth. If it is, we’ll just look at the person’s Wikipedia page. It is about rather how truth is manipulated and manufactured to tell a story, an entertaining and insightful yet honest one. Absolute truth does not exist, people. So no, I don’t think we should concern ourselves with Dunham’s ability to remember something so specific when she was so young and to debate about it further. Reading nonfiction requires trust. Trust that the writer was honest and the reader as accepting and open.
Now this isn’t a review. I don’t like boxing myself into a ‘review’ and I don’t think a review is never personal. And I don’t think I’m good at it either. So I’m treating this blog entry as a reflection to her book with a few of my favorite excerpts.
Okay, many people keeps complaining about how much information Dunham relays unto its twentysomething and younger readers like me (I’m 19!). People complain about that the book was all about her white privileged life and her petty problems. Though I do agree with them bitches who gave one-star reviews, I’d like to defend Dunham by saying first, “fuck you.” Second, how much information a person gives to you is very subjective. The concept of ‘too much information’ is dangerous because most of the time the ‘information’ is taboo or graphic. Dunham doesn’t care if you don’t like her struggles with being the least best bulimic or if you think that she molested her one-year old sister when she opened her vagina (she was only seven and curious!). The concept of too much information can be used as a weapon to silence something someone has wanted to talk about but had no one to talk about it. And we do need to talk about some things. We need to talk about rape openly because it isn’t embarrassing and it is not your fault. And she does all this, feminism and all, with her auteur shitness, in her own tiny voice.
I think stories that are filed under ‘too much information’ are stories that aren’t well-written enough to be interesting. Though at some points, in Lena Dunham’s memoir, there are uninteresting parts like her discussion of her various therapists (this is totally subjective) or her listing of her health concerns, it may have been interesting to others.
I find the chapter “Grace” to be my favorite. Her relationship with her sister is delightful to see. I wanted to see Lena be with someone who is both a friend and family and I did. Most often than not, siblings are allies. You can talk to them like a friend and you’re always with them like family.
The thing with me reading this book is that I forgot the best parts or the terrible parts of the entire book and I just finished it two hours ago but I felt like I’ve grown to love inside Dunham’s little world in a deeper way. Unlike how I read books and remember the funny parts of the book or the worst parts—compartmentalized, reading this book helped me to understand her as a whole person, though irritating at times.
I gave this book for three stars for helping me become a bigger person, in helping me see another person’s perspective, even if it’s some white fish’s. (Tangerine reference)