About a year ago I decided that I wanted to start hosting a book club at my apartment. My vision for the group was this: the women would be eclectic and smart, the books would be thought provoking, and the conversations would be casually led. The only ticket for admission would be a willingness to engage in conversation (regardless if you actually finished the book) and a bottle of wine. I must say that it’s a fantastic group of women. This month’s read was Leana Dunham‘s new book: Not that Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”. It was by far my most favorite book club to date. There were a lot of options about her book: some thought she was too open and brash while others thought her stories were thematically dissociative. The conversation was rich with debate and I couldn’t help but think that our discussions were exactly the kind of conversations that Lena intended her book to inspire.
Middle school was an awkward time for me, as indicated by the picture I’ve so graciously posted for your amusement. I certainly don’t believe that my junior high experience makes me some kind of an anomaly among my peers. To this day, I’m baffled that so many adolescent girls experience the same level of discomfort and confusion as their peers yet feel so utterly alone among their classmates and friends. How is it that we weren’t able to band together during this time?
Regardless, middle school was an uncomfortable time for me, filled with a lot of longing, awkwardness, and loneliness that followed me well into my high school years. As someone in the book club said, I think we’re still trying to understand those feelings even as adult women. For me, very few movies or books have captured the level of earnest adolescent longing and innocence that Not That Kind of Girl is able to do. Perhaps Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret is the closet piece of literature that is able to evoke those same kinds of feelings in me. While Lena’s book encompassed more than just her adolescence, there was something about her memoir that reminded me of my own pre-teen years. Very few of my life experiences parallel those of Lena (as well as Blume’s iconic protagonist Margaret). However both of these authors were able to evoke something that few other people have been able to do and because of that, I enjoyed the book immensely.
It’s worth noting that there was controversy surrounding two of the stories in her book. When I read the parts that so many critics found offensive, I wasn’t as alarmed as I thought I might be. Given the context of those stories and the tenderness with which she approached so many of her own experiences (including her experience of sexual assault in college), I’m not sure I would have given those parts a second thought if I hadn’t know that so many critics found them offensive.
I commend Dunham for courageously telling her story It is never easy to put our stories in print and open ourselves up for public critique. I enjoyed the read and recommend it to anyone who might be considering the book.
What about you? Have you read her book? What did you think?