Lena Dunham’s new memoir Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned,” is personal, graphic and shocking—but that’s not unexpected at all. Anyone who has seen an episode of Dunham’s hit HBO show “Girls” knows that she is an open book, always ready and willing to tell her audience the most honest stories about herself even if it casts her in a negative light.
In what is probably the best––or at least the most talked about––two chapters of the book, however, Dunham tells us a story in which she is certainly not the bad guy.
In the chapters “Girls & Jerks” and “Barry,” Dunham tells two versions of the same story. In “Girls & Jerks,” she tells a story of carelessly––regrettably––hooking up with a sleazy Republican in college. In “Barry,” the perspective changes drastically as we come to learn that Dunham didn’t consensually hook up with Barry— she realized that he raped her.
What Lena does here with the juxtaposition of perspective is perhaps one of the most empowering moves she could have made as a writer. By utilizing both a story in which she doesn’t comes to terms with her rape and a grittier, more poignant version of the same story, Dunham is able to capture the confusion and struggle of sexual assault survivor.
Dunham admits that she first blamed herself for her rape, talking about how confused and unsure she felt. Her narrative structure perfectly illustrates these feelings; creating a work that survivors can relate to.
Dunham has masterful control of whichever form she uses. “Girls” works by telling stories episodically, gradually characterizing its cast. Her 2010 film Tiny Furniture captures her quirkiness in a shorter timespan. Now, Not That Kind of Girl shows her mastery of yet another successful medium for the writer and actress: print and e-books.
With Dunham’s memoir, readers get something more than what they see on television or in film. They can see that even a woman as powerful and well known as Dunham––someone with talent, purpose and intellect––can be a survivor of sexual assault or rape.
It’s uplifting to see that someone can go through such a painful experience and still be arguably one of the most powerful women in Hollywood. She is able to reveal herself at her most vulnerable and still gain strength from her experiences. Like a reverse Achilles, Dunham has the courage to show all of her weakest points and grows from this exploration.
Not That Kind of Girl is a must-read for anyone who needs to find empowerment or solace. Dunham’s book is truly a testament to the power of courage and resilience.