Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Not That Kind of Girl: Sex and the City

I'll start with a confession. I've never watched the popular TV show, Sex and the City. In fact, as I started to write this post I thought the name of the show was "Sex in the City"--I've paid scant attention to it over the years. All I know about the show is that Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis (who a cashier once told me I resemble, but I don't, really, it was just that my hair was long at the time), and Kim Cattrall star in it. Even though I grew up in NYC, I have little interest in the show, and even less interest in the movie spin-offs. So I must apologize to my friends for not being able to discuss the show properly with them over the years; I had to fake it, to say "yeah, yeah" when they talked about a show that I've never seen.

I wasn't sure what to expect with this book. Obviously the title refers to sex, and so I thought that Not That Kind of Girl by Carlene Bauer, published in 2009, might be a ribald memoir about sex. Religious girl goes wild, gives up God, discovers sex, that sort of thing. But it really isn't. It's not that kind of book. Actually, it's rather low-key in the sex arena, which makes it sexier in a way, at least to me. But I have a problem with memoirs. Many memoir writers, I think, believe they must reveal all the sordid details of their pasts, far more than you'd really care to know about. Isn't that why many write them, to purge themselves of the past? In some cases, their stories may help those with similar struggles. When I read such a memoir, though, I often feel a bit guilty because I've not had the same problems growing up. (Has everyone had a difficult past?) Some of us have led less tumultuous lives, which are interesting in more subtle ways. This is the case with writer Carlene Bauer, who recounts her struggles with religion and sex, and those between the intellectual, the "bookish" (she is quite well-read) and the corporeal.

Carlene's memoir begins with her childhood in suburban New Jersey, a sensitive, anxious child who fears the "Jersey Devil", and attends Christian school. As she matures, her status as a devout Christian changes and she begins to question her beliefs.

"My Christian education taught me that you could take the tiny pliant soul out of the world, but the world would find the tiny pliant soul. Some girls would get pregnant before they graduated. Some would become alcoholics. Some would make local headlines for nearly starving their children to death. Some would get married and have affairs. Some would move to New York and give up on God. We were all a lesson in the impossibility of peace of mind and purity of heart."
~Not That Kind of Girl, Carlene Bauer

In high school and college, she questions her faith in God and her values, and moves to NYC after attending Johns Hopkins University, to pursue a writing career. Although NY changes her, she is still "reluctant to use certain four-letter words" and is responsible rather than reckless. In her story, she also searches for something akin to love, for something sacred in a city where perhaps nothing is deemed sacred.

Overall, I found this book to be understated and introspective, as if written under the influence of chamomile tea during stormy nights. Carlene's quest seems to be in part a yearning for a meaningful connection with a partner, preferably someone she can discuss religion and literature with. The author is modest but not overly self-effacing, and manages to view herself with enough distance to write with humor, intelligence, and grace. This is a quiet, thoughtful memoir to be enjoyed, guilt-free.

Special thanks to Trish from TLC and Harper Perennial for including me on this tour. For more reviews of this book, please visit the other stops on TLC's Not That Kind of Girl blog tour.


  1. Well I am not sure I want to read this. To answer your question about childhood...well I think I had some issues but nothing I have not fought and won. :)

  2. Fantastic review! Carlene Bauer sounds like someone I could relate to.

  3. What a lovely review!! I am a big reader of memoirs, but I do know what you mean about some authors telling too much. It sounds as though this would be a book that I'd really like, so I shall have to be on the lookout for it. Glad you ended up enjoying it!

  4. Jinky, thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you here again!

    Veens, I love your new profile picture. I was being a bit facetious in my review regarding memoirs. Of course, we all have various struggles growing up; some are worse than others. :)

    Kathy, thanks. I think you'd enjoy this book.

    Zibilee, thanks for stopping by. I just left a comment on your latest review, which is excellent.

  5. First, I thought it was Sex in the City too. I've never seen it, and I wouldn't have known otherwise if not for this post. Second, I've gotten to where I can't really read memoirs anymore. Maybe it's just a mood...

  6. Amanda, thanks for your comment. It's good to know that I am not the only woman in the U.S. who hasn't seen the show! I actually like to read memoirs, as unbelievable as some may be (but truth is stranger than fiction, right?). My point is that this is a quieter type of memoir.

  7. This does sound interesting so I'll have to check it out. I don't read a lot of memoirs either but the few that I've read have been pretty good. Great review!

  8. You are so right about memoirs often over-sharing - often times I'll think "I REALLY did't need to know that!" It seems like this book didn't go down that path and that's a great thing.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  9. Nice review. Based on the title I would also have assumed the book is a Sex and the City type memoir and would have immediately passed over it. I'm not sure if I will pick this up but if I do it will mostly be based on your review of it.

  10. Samantha, Heather, and Red, thanks for stopping by and for your comments. I really enjoyed this contemplative book--there's a lot to it.

    More comments welcomed.

  11. Great Review!At first I thought it was something to do with the show which I don't like...
    I just started my own blog. Please stop by if you can. Thank you


  12. I hadn't heard of this memoir before; glad u enjoyed it, but not sure that I would.

  13. Great review Suko!
    I do agree, many people write memoirs to purge themselves of the past.


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