Tag Archives: memoir

Not that Kind of Girl | Review

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Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

Most people know Lena Dunham from her work on the HBO series Girls, which features young women in their early 20s trying to “make it” post college in New York. Even if you haven’t seen the show, you’ve probably seen – or at least heard about – her unabashed nakedness and sexuality. She is the embodiment of the millennial generation, struggling with love, sex, dieting, jobs, and her own narcissism. Dunham is either loved or hated, has a strong sense of self and feminism, and isn’t ashamed of it. Yet, she’s also insecure  and obsessed with death, and not as comfortable with sex as her portrayal of Hannah may imply.

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” is Dunham’s first memoir, and she speaks candidly about those insecurities, her mental health issues, and her experiences growing up with “artists” as parents. She’s privileged, wrapped up in her own petty dramas and issues, but there’s something relatable about her, for a 20-something woman, at least.

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Perhaps reading these logs would’ve been better, but as I listened to the audiobook – narrated by Dunham and the reason I chose to listen rather than read – it felt repetitive and unnecessary. The narration itself was typical Dunham – she isn’t the best narrator in the world, at times her voice can be grating and pompous – but it fits her book, and I prefer to listen to memoirs when they’re read by the author, it makes it more personal.

I loved getting her perspectives on topics like friends, sex, love, and work, and I do think it’s an important read for women in the 20s, but am not sure people outside that demographic would find it enjoyable.

3/5 stars

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I Am Malala | Review

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I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
with Christina Lamb

The cover tells the basic story: “The girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban,” but there is so much more to it than that.

I Am Malala not only tells the story of one girl’s bravery to stand up for her belief in the right to an education, but of the Pakistani people’s history and oppression, of how the angry and underappreciated can become the evil, how easy and dangerous it is to interpret religion and use it against others.

Malala was only a teenager when two members of the Taliban jumped onto her school bus and shot her in the head. The Taliban claimed it was because Malala embraced Western customs and not the Muslim way; in reality it was because she had a voice and wasn’t afraid to stand up for the right to an education.

Malala wouldn’t have been “Malala” without the influence of her father, a man passionate for education, who instilled those values in his daughter as well. Under his guidance, she learned to stand up for her beliefs and rights, and how to speak and fight for herself. She followed his lead and has since become the youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and the first from Pakistan.

635485334367647704-1mobileI Am Malala is a beautiful and rich story of how war affected the town of Swat, Pakistan, and the family of Malala. It goes into the history of Pakistan, the customs of Islam, and the introduction of the Taliban. It isn’t afraid to talk negatively about the West; to accuse America of wrongdoing, and it helps paint the world Post-9/11 from the perspective of Pakistan. Just like Nazi’s influenced post-WWI Germany and took over the weak and were able to sweep people along; so has the Taliban in the Middle East. This section shows how important education truly is as well; the uneducated and illiterate don’t know to think critically, to relate events to others of history, or to question authority, and with a country like Pakistan, where 50 million adults are illiterate, it’s easy to see how these events could occur.

It was really interesting to read about the culture of Swat, Muslims, and Pakistan as a whole. Though there was a lot of history and backstory, I found it enlightening and intriguing as a whole.

Though some of the minor details seemed unimportant; she mentions her friendship with Moniba a lot, but usually randomly, and with comments along the lines of “we quarreled and she said she wasn’t my friend anymore,” which I suppose were to help remind the audience the age of Malala at the time of the incident, and paint her in a realistic light, but they almost seemed out of place and unnecessary.

If nothing else, this book made me realize how lucky I am to have grown up in America, where I can wear what I want and be what I want, and have access to so much at my fingertips. I don’t have to fight to go to school; running water has never been a problem; I’m allowed to believe what I want.

Malala is a wonderful speaker and storyteller, and her story is a powerful one. I can’t wait to see where she ends up in the future, and how she will continue to influence the world around her.

Choose Your Own Autobiography | Review

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Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

Neil Patrick Harris, aka Doogie Houser, aka Barney Simpson, aka the de facto host of the Tonys, is a charismatic, funny, magical, entertainer of a man, and his memoir/autobiography was no different.

Rather than write his story in the traditional memoir-style, Harris chose to evoke the style of his favorite childhood books: Choose Your Own Adventure. For those who don’t know, these books offered a simple premise, and the reader followed different paths to create their own story. Some would turn out to be the obviously wrong, resulting in your early demise, whereas others took awhile before the mistake was realized, and you frantically flipped the pages, looking for where you went wrong. The fun part, is that it’s written in second person: YOU are doing this, YOU are doing that, YOU are hosting the Tonys and starring in HIMYM.

I listened to the audiobook of this, as it was narrated by Neil Patrick Harris himself. Because of the format, the Choose Your Own parts of the book were limited and adapted to meet the needs of the listener, so I heard the entire story, untimely demises and all, in a hodgepodge kind of order that still felt right.

The tales go back to Harris’ childhood, where he lived a fairly normal life, idolizing his older brother and loving his supportive parents. He shares his love of magic and how he became the President of the elite Magic Castle in Hollywood. He talks about his start in acting and goes through most of his acting jobs all the way up to Hedwig and the Angry Inch, his 2014 Tony award-winning performance. He also recounts his story of realizing, accepting, and embracing his homosexuality, and his partnership with David Burtka and eventual parenthood via surrogacy.

4243824-3482981410-936fuAll the while, Harris remains elegant, classy, and charming. He does share some of his exploits and adventures with men, tame drugs, and certain celebrities, but he does so in a “well, this happened” kind of way, rather than malicious or over-the-top.

Interspersed throughout are magic tricks Harris walks you through (never revealing the secret, of course, in true magician form), as well as drink and food recipes he and David created. It feels like Harris has let you in on a secret, and let you into his life like an old friend.

And that’s how this is. The book is read as YOU, and it helps you appreciate Harris, what he went through, and how he came out on top. It’s a clever premise, and a tricky one, for a celebrity memoir, but Harris makes it work with his charm and sillyness. I loved listening to all the ways YOU (as Harris), inexplicably die, randomly interwoven throughout the narrative.

It’s fun and whimsical, and for fans of Neil Patrick Harris, a treat.