If you’re a Girls fan, than you will definitely love the book ‘Not that Kind of Girl’ by the director, writer and starring actor Lena Dunham. It is an incredibly raw, honest and upfront autobiography of her life and as the by-line suggests, ‘a young woman tells you what she has learned.’
Her writing style is very unique, entertaining and humorous (‘I was being desexualised in slow motion, becoming a teddy bear with breasts’). The way she portrays her life as a 20-something woman in New York makes her, in my opinion, the voice of our generation.
The quirky stories, characters strike a strong resemblance to that told in ‘Girls’ and Dunham’s earlier film ‘Tiny Furniture.’
‘Not that Kind of Girl,’ is a collection of autobiographic essays, divided into different sections; Love and sex, Body, Friendship, Work, Big picture, that exposes her life as a woman. From her thoughts on losing her virginity; ‘No floodgate had opened. No vault of true womanhood unlocked. She remained, and she was me’; to having children early in life ‘but I resent them. Their constancy, their intrusion on my relationship and my free time and my naps and my imagination and my heart. They’ve come too soon, and I can’t do any of what I planned. All I can do is survive.’
Many people have criticised her work of representing over privileged and self-indulgent. For example, she makes reference to how her parents have a specialist for everything in life. However, Dunham acknowledges and accepts this, using it in an entertaining, insightful manner ‘which was maybe the only time I actually believed that anyone besides me even existed.’
The narration makes this book unique. It’s first-person and is completely Dunham’s recollection of how the world impacts her and bravely provides detail on private aspects of her life. The only piece she decides to keep private is, touchingly, about the man she fell in love with; ‘He is mine to protect. There is so much I’ve shared, and so much that’s been crushed by my sharing. I never mourned it, because it never mattered.’ She does make an interest reference on how she is an ‘unreliable narrator.’
Dunham doesn’t fear away from the taboo topics that commonly effect women, which is another reason I struggled to put this book down. From staying with boyfriends; ‘I was lonely as hell and didn’t hate kissing him,’ to mental health; ‘I cried, ostensibly because I’d miss him when I left but truly because I felt dead inside,’ ‘I was in the middle of a full dissociative meltdown. The anxiety that has followed me through my life was like a bad friend had reappeared with a vengeance and taken a brand-new form.’
Ultimately, ‘Not that kind of girl’ is an account of Dunham’s imperfect journey to self-discovery — her true self-awareness and honesty is extremely engaging; ‘I always reminded myself that this wasn’t exactly where I was meant to be, but pit stops are okay on the road of life, aren’t they?’
The reason this book was so captivating for me was the way I could relate to her situation. Someone else is going through exactly the same thing I am, in terms of boys, work, body and self-discovery, and is brave enough to give a detailed, raw and honest portrayal of their experience. And the fact that that thought crossed my mind multiple times throughout reading this book places me, a twenty-something woman trying to make her way in this world, an ideal audience and satisfies Dunham’s every intention through her ‘self-help’ like book; ‘if I could take what I’ve learned and make one menial job easier for you, or prevent you from having 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 has been worthwhile.’
Originally published by the Australia Times.