Lena Dunham Meets Her Following

Download Audio

Lena Dunham's HBO series "Girls" has won her a deeply devoted fan base.

Many young women see her as a role model, because her show portrays flawed relationships, not great sex, and heroines, including herself, with less than perfect bodies.

Now she's published a book of essays "Not That Kind of Girl" and she's embarked on a tour where her fans get to see her in conversation with fellow writers, including Mary Karr, Zadie Smith and Curtis Sittenfeld.

Here & Now's Robin Young caught up with them at the tour stop in Boston's Wilbur Theatre.

The book takes many of the same themes in the show as a jumping off point.

"The book shows the kind of depth and pathos that you always sense in the show," memoirist Mary Karr said. "You sense that there is real suffering under the humor. Humor is always about a wound."

Dunham said she could not have written her book without prior feminist trailblazers, like Nora Ephron and Helen Gurley Brown, the founder of Cosmopolitan.

"I hope that those women would feel excited and feel that I was continuing a dialogue that they very bravely started," Dunham said. "There's nothing that's better for young women than reading books by great women from the last 150 years."

 "I'm 20 years old and I hate myself"

The book begins, "I'm 20 years old and I hate myself."

Women should be able to feel safe and comfortable on their own campuses, and college experimentation should not lead to lifelong trauma.

Lena Dunham

"It continues to be a very raw experience," Dunham said of reading the book out loud on the tour. "Every time I read, I relive the painful stuff that's in the pages. I don't have as much distance as one might hope."

Dunham is 29 years old now, and says writing the book has helped her to understand her younger self.

"When I read what it was like to be a younger version of myself, I feel a lot of sympathy, I sometimes feel enraged with her," Dunham said. "Writing the book has been cathartic and caused me to make some kind of peace with that."

Women in college

One of the essays in Dunham's book is about being sexually assaulted in college.

"It took me a long time to become comfortable with the idea that I had been involved in a non-consensual sexual experience," Dunham said. "Like so many women, I took a lot of the blame for it ... I know some people will object to the idea that I didn't name it, but to me it was important to explore how many women have experiences that they can't name, and they don't know where to file it. What I concluded was that it had been traumatic, and I needed to admit to myself how traumatic it had been in order to be able to move on."

Dunham says she hopes the national conversation about campus sexual violence causes men to examine themselves.

"Women should be able to feel safe and comfortable on their own campuses, and college experimentation should not lead to lifelong trauma," Dunham said. "Women are forced to take responsibility for themselves and their own safety in a way men never are."


This segment aired on October 7, 2014.


More from Here & Now

Listen Live