Book Review: Not That Kind of Girl

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Blog friends: Some exciting news! In the last couple of month I’ve joined a team of contributing writers for in the US. I really enjoy it and I love that the editors are open to stories of all kinds. It’s a nice way for me to explore different topics and see what fits writing-wise.

Please do me a SOLID and check my pieces here:

In the meantime, here’s my latest published post on Lena Dunham’s book “Not That Kind of Girl”

I must admit, when I first watched HBO’s “GIRLS” back in 2012, I wanted to hate it. I heard about the show’s comparisons to “Sex & the City” and I had to know more about its copycat.

I related to the “GIRLS” characters, but what kept me watching was the writer, producer, director and star of the show, Lena Dunham. My admiration for Dunham’s work lead me to quickly pre-order her first book of essays titled “Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned.” Released on September 30, the book is a compilation of short story essays on topics ranging from Dunham’s artist parents, sexual escapades and navigating the waters of adulthood.

Dunham, a 28-year-old New York City native, is known for her gifted writing, as well as, her raw no frills sex scenes in “GIRLS.” Her book opens with a similar honesty, detailing losing her virginity and non-consensual unprotected sex, an incident she deems as possible rape.

I questioned her choice to use love, sex and all things in between as her first chapter, it felt heavy and even crude. The essays are divided into five sections: Love & Sex, Body, Friendship, Work and Big Picture. Her personal stories are mixed with Buzzfeed style lists, which capture the thing Dunham does best: Making raw emotion humorous and human.

Stories recounting her years of platonic bed sharing communicate the need for companionship and loneliness everyone experiences at some point in time. Chapters like “Emails I would Send If I Were One Ounce Crazier/Angrier/Braver” and “What’s in My Bag” prove for serious laugh-out-loud moments.

Coming from the same generation as Dunham, I absolutely adored her nod to the pre-internet era. Chat room romances (A/S/L anyone?), outdoor adventures and bunk beds at summer camp, Brooklyn before the hippies and gentrification. It felt like home, familiar and nostalgic.

Dunham shares her life post-college, moving back to New York and taking on a cushy job at a high-end baby-clothing store. The specificity of her work will leave readers marveling at her ability to string words together and make them think, “Did this really happen? What is your life?”

Dunham’s pro-feminist stance is a clear theme, among many, throughout the book. It’s unassuming and dauntless. She writes, “I know when I’m dying, looking back, it will be women that I regret having argued with, women I sought to impress, to understand, was tortured by. Women I wish to see again, to see them smile and laugh and say, It was all as it should have been.” In a recent interview, Dunham talks about how her book wasn’t written for women alone, but for men to enjoy as well, given gender equality is a mans issue too.

“Not That Kind of Girl” may not be for the faint of heart. There is sex talk, boy talk, friend drama and eventually a discussion on finding your own happiness. Dunham holds nothing back when it comes to revealing her most embarrassing moments detailed food logs and her vulnerability, which makes for the best kind of read. Dunham is not shy, that’s for sure, and we all now know she is certainly not that kind of girl.

A Woman’s Worth

I went to visit my newish friend on the 3rd floor this afternoon. I made an appointment for an Indian oil body massage (abhyangam) which was bomb and per typical Indian tradition, M and I stayed back to chat over homemade chai and snacks. Although I never asked her, I knew 3rd floor (3F) was no longer married/separated/man-less; there was never any sign of him around and her two kids seemed quite content that way. I figured it was none of my business and when she felt like sharing, she would. And today she did. She started off telling me about how at age 16 she used to suffer from extreme arthritis. Eventually the story developed into how at 17, she was forced into marrying ‘that man’. She explained:

“I was wrapped up in a nice white sari and asked my parents why this was happening. They told me it was because that man was coming to see me. ‘See me for what?’, I innocently asked. ‘Marriage.'”

She continued to recant the painful 12 years she spent in a remote village outside of Bangalore in what sounded like utter slavery. My chest grew heavy as she told us how her in-laws treated her as a prisoner by locking her up in her room, starving her during 5 months of her pregnancy. Her Punjabi neighbor secretly fed her when the in-laws weren’t around. 3F’s eyes grew weary when she spoke of the housework she did from morning till eve, leaving little time for anything else. She and her ex (who she mentioned was also violent) went through a nasty dowry-case battle for 4 years and are recently divorced.

The whole concept of a dowry blows my mind, its absurd and disgusting.The New Oxford American Dictionary defines a dowry as  property or money brought by a bride to her husband on their marriage. Apparently the groom’s side of the family can demand anything from the brides side: foreign cars, land, and stacks of gold are common requests. Women are treated as a form of trade merchandise whose value is to be determined by everyone except her. M reminded me how many people in India believe in and still practice the dowry system today. I’m grateful for my forward-thinking reformist maternal grandparents who were Arya Samaj members. My grandfather (Nana-ji) and his brothers fought to bring an end to the dowry system.  Nana-ji and Nani-ji never implemented the dowry theory in their household despite having 5 daughters.

It’s hard to imagine 3F experienced such hardships because when you meet her, she immediately glows. It’s the tough times that made her as strong as she is today, that’s for sure. Her kids are too cute and her family is a small, happy one. She swears that after her kids are married she will retire to her ashram in Bangalore forever in the presence of her Guruji. Her older kid’s response: ‘But MOM, who will look after MY kids and help me cook??!’, to which 3F cleverly replies, ‘we’ll find you a nice good Indian house-husband.’

Gotta love that attitude.