I like reading books about war dogs, shipwrecks, and lady aviators.
I read this book several weeks ago and I've been struggling with how to frame my response to it. Obviously, the one-star rating does a lot of my talking for me. I do want to nod to the widely accepted belief that celebrity memoirs are typically subpar. Including Dunham's, I've now read three celebrity memoirs, all by Famous White Feminists. I loved one and found the other two thoroughly disappointing. This one was aggravating and cloying in its best moments, utterly dull and boring throughout.
I wanted to like this book. I want women to have a successful platform for sharing our stories. Women, especially young women and women with societally marginalized identities, are brushed aside and made out as jokes by mainstream culture. I want that to change and I was hoping that Dunham's significant privilege and media platform could open doors for women who have more interesting and meaningful stories to tell. Unfortunately, I think this will become evidence, an artifact to point to, when people try to claim that women don't deserve a space in the literary (or writ large) world.
The essays are not well constructed and there's nothing memorable in the style or the prose. They're meandering and self-indulgent-- not self-reflexive or productive. I would say it's masturbatory, but that may be poorly worded given the controversy and allegations of sexual abuse (enacted by Dunham against her sister, according to some readings) surrounding the book. In response to these allegations, the website Those Kinds of Girls began curating stories of childhood sexual exploration. I think that's awesome, and the one good takeaway from the book. Notably, this was not in the book nor did Dunham have a hand in its creation. It's disappointing that the only good things I can find come from people outside of the text.
I felt sad reading this book, because it was such a stark reminder of the ways in which socioeconomic class dictate our larger culture. This poorly conceived memoir doesn't contribute anything but the unavoidable reality that privilege begets platform. Dunham was able to write and publish this book because of her status, not her talent. This status and privilege, which Dunham and her book are mired in, is never acknowledged, which further destabilizes and discredits the narrative. Ultimately I found this book to do more harm than good, furthering the misguided cultural belief that young women are worthless and feminism is our silly little indulgence.
What everyone with privilege needs to remember is to tread cautiously and to carefully consider who they are hurting or silencing by speaking... Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. We have to use our privilege to make space for those who don't have it. And while I realize I'm putting a lot of pressure on Dunham here-- can one single book carry this responsibility?-- if we are to truly be feminist artists, these are the questions we must ask ourselves and each other.