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Not That Kind of Girl: A Memoir

Review

Not That Kind of Girl: A Memoir

I haven’t read many memoirs where I felt compelled to
underline sentences because they resonated so strongly with my own
view of the world. NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL almost could be my story
--- a prudish and bookish girl growing up in the ’80s and
’90s with a passion for evangelical Christianity and an
equally passionate love of words. Just like the author Carlene
Bauer, “I was sure that when people talked about using our
gifts to glorify [God], it meant that God was going to put me to
work writing devotional guides for teenage girls.” And just
like Bauer, I wasn’t sure that this was the life I
wanted.

Bauer did have one thing that I didn’t --- a life plan
involving majoring in English right out of high school and moving
to New York to work as a writer. While I did eventually get my
English degree and have now visited New York, this memoir allows me
to live vicariously through Bauer and see a life that at the ripe
“old” age of 32 I feel I cannot pursue now. And not
only can I see this life, I can see it through the eyes of a young
girl equally afraid of her own sexuality, equally stuck in the
lives of dead authors’ romantic heroines, equally replacing
underlining in Bibles with underlining in novels that refreshingly
offer no one truth, and, ultimately, equally stumbling through life
without all the answers.

There were moments when Bauer and I took the exact same steps
--- the same Christian hang-ups bothered us in the same order,
starting with the phrase “How’s your walk with the
Lord?” and ending with a desperate scramble to find
some denomination that let women be feminists and
congregants be liberal but ultimately failing in this quest. What
Bauer also refreshingly shares with me is a real acceptance of
those who have stayed with Christianity, and a hint of envy that
they can lead their lives with such blind faith while we are left
with the “curse” of unbelief.

But Bauer is also not me. Her memoir is filled with literary
name dropping that I shamefully admit is not really name dropping
but simply a more intense knowledge of the subject she studied.
Reading her memoir is like taking a refresher course in English
literature --- some of the references you get, and some you
don’t. But you end the book feeling smarter (or more stupid
for not being as smart) than when you first opened it. However,
Bauer’s aim is not to make her readers feel smart, or stupid.
It’s to make them feel human and to tell them that this
humanness is okay --- for Bauer herself is also refreshingly
self-critical.

At times during the memoir I was afraid for the author. She
would take a turn and I would think, “Oh no, here is where we
will differ.” But as I continued reading, she always came
back to me and embraced my decisions as her own. The exception to
this, at least so far in my single life, is to whom she decides to
commit. Without ruining an ending, I’ll say that it follows
in the same vein of the current romantic comedy trend --- overly
educated women who have to learn to “let go” and settle
for less educated men, and to do so with a feeling of shedding
shameful intellectualism and embracing a life of simpler pleasures.
But I do not blame Bauer for this. It is simply an outcome of
societal role reversals --- women proving to the world that they
can get an education, and men proving to the world that an
education isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And
secretly, I can’t help but desire my own nonintellectual,
carefree companion. If Bauer’s and my joint fate thus far is
any indication, this man should be showing up in about a year.

Reviewed by Shannon Luders-Manuel (www.shannonluders.com) on January 13, 2011

Not That Kind of Girl: A Memoir
by Carlene Bauer

  • Publication Date: August 1, 2009
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0060840544
  • ISBN-13: 9780060840549