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Anthropology of an American Girl

Anthropology of an American Girl

3.5 84
by H. T. Hamann

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Beyond the riveting and cinematic story of a young artist's awakening and her enduring love for a professional fighter, Anthropology of an American Girl provides an intelligent assessment of the essence of being an American in contemporary culture. Anthropology follows its heroine, Eveline, as she moves from high school in the Hamptons during the


Beyond the riveting and cinematic story of a young artist's awakening and her enduring love for a professional fighter, Anthropology of an American Girl provides an intelligent assessment of the essence of being an American in contemporary culture. Anthropology follows its heroine, Eveline, as she moves from high school in the Hamptons during the bohemian 1970s to college in New York City during the bleak and neo-conservative 1980s. Through a purity of voice reminiscent of such great American writers as Carson McCullers, Harper Lee, or Willa Cather, Ms. Hamann gives the reader complete access to Eveline's interior state of mind in order to juxtapose external reality against the intrinsic, soulful truth upon which the reader comes to depend.

Editorial Reviews

ANG Newspapers
Eveline discovers herself and the importance behind the choices she makes as a human being. Told from the perspective of the young girl's mind, Eveline's thoughts are beautifully expressed in a very evolving self awareness kind of way. The story of one of her several love interests, Rourke, an older man who captures her heart, is the central leaping point from girlhood into womanhood. As Eveline becomes transfixed by his attraction to her, she processes the meaning of their personal connection on levels far beyond the surface. -- Cammie Clark
Anthropology of an American Girl gives an exciting twist to the study of humankind. Anthropology is an honest in-depth study of life in America through the lens of popular culture and the eyes of intelligent and artistic teenagers and young adults. Hamann's book is not to be considered lightweight; it is more of a psychological journey along the lines of Catcher in the Rye. The book openly and honestly addresses sex, drugs, relationships and personal growth. -- Naomi Foster
Foreword Magazine
The volume itself is proof that books as products can reflect the artistry within. Being a girl knows no geographic, climactic, or political boundaries. And that is part of the appeal of Hamann's writing. Anthropology of an American Girl is based on the universal theme of growing up, or rather, growing up artfully, but Evie is always specific, always herself, always pinpointing her eye on the smallest detail that shows how much alike our growing up experiences can be. Even decades, or states, or genders, apart.
John A. Mangarella
Anthropology of an American Girl is written at the speed of sight. H.T. Hamann never mistakes viewpoint for point of view. Her words never perch atop a cliff straining to absorb the vastness of life. Instead of a stationary peek through wide-angle binoculars, she flawlessly opens Eveline's life through an ever changing camera eye that adapts instantaneously to people, events and surroundings. Even though Eveline's story begins at East Hampton High School in 1979, this is by no means a coming of age story. This is a coming into life tale about a talented young artist whose pathway through her heart and soul lead to the steel and girder of Manhattan.

As Eveline views her world, we first notice Jack, her high school boyfriend. He's young, a talented musician, brash, opinionated and often doesn't catch the expression of intense scrutiny that peeks through Eveline's facial mask. He truly does "know it all" for his age and that's quite all right with Eveline because she's perfecting her art while trudging through high school. She possesses the safety net of a boyfriend that is her teenage lover until Jack asks her if she had had sex with two star football players. Her answer is a quiet statement of horror that took this reader by surprise. "I didn't have sex with them. They had sex with me."

Without warning, Eveline's memory opens and we see images of a party she'd attended. She's sitting on the toilet when the players crash the bathroom door, lift her halfway onto the sink and then rape her. Afterward, as Eveline leaves the party, it seems that everyone knows what happened in the bathroom and holds her very much to blame for being in that time and place to tempt the football players. Yet, the real horror, the horror that magnifies life as we know it from high school to high school, is the unshattered philosophy that a winning season comes much higher on the social agenda than a woman's rape.

Eveline realizes there is no justice in this matter. There isn't even a platter upon which to serve a ration of revenge. If she reports the crime, the whole school will ostracize her, turning her reputation into a sport in which anyone can participate. One of the rapists phones her the following day and asks her how she's doing. They talk about the weather until the phone call ends. She knows she's going to carry this crime around within her as she moves through the hallways of the school. She sees other girls watching her, observing her with expressions designed to protect the rapists. And, of course, the ultimate insult blossoms when Jack asks her if she had sex with them, intimating that he believes the rumor mill.

Please understand that even though I have highlighted this particular scene as a looking glass into Ms. Hamann's power on the page, it is by no means the prime mover of the story. This is one sketch in a book of superbly drawn scenes whose color brims and flows as we read, as we watch Eveline mature and grow and love. Eveline's view drives the perpetual motor of this story throughout every page.

This reader was certain that Jack would confront the rapists in some way. He doesn't. Eveline's male friends also show a bit of promise in the revenge department but Ms. Hamann, in her masterful handling of this sequence, does not let it go there because she knows the simple, naked truth. People do not care enough to intercede. That too many men just don't regard women as their partners in life and would allow any crime against them from sheer laziness. Somewhere within this horror, and let me remind you, it is written as a very quiet horror, Eveline realizes that Jack can never protect her. He's not strong enough. Oh, he's smart and talented and fun but despite his bravado, he is not strong enough to be the man to her woman.

When her eyes lock with Harrison Rourke's, she's certain he possesses more strength than she could ever dream. Even though she does not move away from Jack, her relationship with Rourke builds intensely, a moment here and a moment there bracketed by a great deal of thinking on her part. Rourke is older than Eveline. He's been hired to assist the drama department and he works with Eveline on a theater project. They want to see each other. They want to exchange the thoughts of one another's lives but they are extremely careful. Jack is still around and Kate, Eveline's best friend, finds Rourke enticing.

There is an immediate understanding between Eveline and Rourke and their relationship grows. During the same period, she meets Mark. He's wealthy and knows how to use his wealth as every bit the weapon as Rourke's hands are in the boxing ring. As Eveline develops her art in Manhattan, Rourke and Mark, by then serious rivals, vie for her. The heart of this novel, in itself a force of time and place and people, is the story of their love. But that is too simple a statement to make about Anthropology Of An American Girl. It's also about growing through their own perceptions of love for one another. Sometimes those perceptions set them at odds with one another but at all times, from the popular music that Ms. Hamann punctuates through the book to the descriptions of locales as they existed in the 1980's, Eveline, Rourke, Mark, Jack, Kate and the other characters are shadowed by the Ronald Reagan's America.

As a note, this reviewer was reminded of Robert Montgomery's first person camera eye performance in the noir film, The Lady Of The Lake, in which you see all that the detective sees but never see him until the end. Take such a view and style it with a dash of John Dos Passos and you have good idea of the ground across which Ms. Hamann is traveling. Her natural storytelling pours Eveline's life onto the page exactly the way all of our lives spill forth from moment to moment across our days and nights. The magic of Ms. Hamann's novel is that we start the journey seeing through Eveline's eyes and by they last page we realize we are, indeed, seeing through our own in a slightly different way.
Small Spiral Notebook

Romantic Times
This magnificently intense love story could be designated a literary novel, but it shares one of the most important tenets of genre romance that a sexual relationship without love ultimately destroys the possibility of living wholly. The author draws the reader into this study of the origin, culture and development of Eveline, the title's American girl, with point and counterpoint in music and art.

Eveline's journey to womanhood begins with high school in the 1970s and takes her through college into adulthood. A highly aware artist, Eveline is reflective of the social conditions around her, a spirit of her time and a touchpoint for people who came of age during the years of the sexual revolution. She honors honesty over conformity, is curious about everything and is a passionate respecter of beauty. Her various relationships with men, including her father, her mother's male friends, her high-school sweetheart and first sexual partner, Rourke, the professional fighter who's her enduring love, and Mark, her rescuer and Rourke's enemy, are explored.

Hamann's prose, perfectly and consistently written in Eveline's voice, has been compared to Carson McCullers, Harper Lee and Willa Cather. In fact, comparison to Tom Wolfe, James Joyce and possibly Emily Dickinson works more easily. Read this one for its poetic narrative, its wealth of metaphor, casting the familiar into the extraordinary, and its romantically uplifting ending.4 1/2 Stars/TOP PICK (highest rating) -- Gerry Benninger

Seattle Weekly
Loosely adapted from the author's own journals, Anthropology makes a petri dish of the distinct social colonies located in New York City, New Jersey, and on the eastern tip of Long Island. As she travels through them, Evie is an adept note taker but not a theorist. She asks many questions of herself, but makes few conclusions. And that's appropriate; after all, how many us understand ourselves during the complicated process of growing up? Evie's coming-of-age, which continues through the '80s, is about as intricate a process as any chemical reaction.

Hamann presents a wealth of fresh, absorbing, raw data in Girl, and it is the privilege and mission of the reader to properly assimilate it. By the close of this half-fanciful, half-academic, fully-realized novel, Hamann's collected evidence provided proof enough for me that she possesses a keen, questioning mind and a precise, empirical method. While the subject matter might lend itself to a slim, stereotypical chick-lit treatment, Girl weighs in with considerably more substance. It's a book worth studying. — Laura Cassidy)

The Daily Californian
If a mercenary dies for money and a martyr dies for a cause, what am I if I die for you? This question, the first statement in Chapter One of H. T. Hamann's debut novel, Anthropology of an American Girl, starts the reader on a quest. After almost 600 pages, there isn't a definitive answer to this question, but by the end of the novel it's become apparent that it doesn't matter. More important than finding answers is the experience of reading. It was this that led me to say, "I have to meet this author." -- Nicole Child
The Providence Journal
An extraordinary debut, updating the 19th century social-psychological novel of romance and manners...Like Jane Austen, George Eliot, or Edith Wharton. H. T. Hamann critiques her era and culture through the tale of a precocious young woman buffeted by the accidents, values, and consequences of her age...One of the pleasures in this novel is the wealth of status-life details evoking the era. More deeply, it rivets through a rawness of complex emotion. Hamann's particular gift is her language, syntax laden with metaphor and analogy which fly effortlessly from Evie's philosophical way of seeing...Gorgeous detail and nuanced thought. An insightful, page-turning read.
Library Journal - Library Journal
In her debut novel, Hamann takes readers on a five-year expedition into the mind of Eveline Auerbach as she finishes high school, leaves her mother's house in East Hampton, NY, and journeys back to the man she loves. But Eveline, or Evie, is not a stereotypical "American Girl"; nor is the book a standard coming-of-age story. Although the driving theme is the powerful attraction between Eveline and Harrison Rourke, the book derives its strength from Evie's "vision," her way of observing the people, events, and objects around her. Always intelligent and insightful, Evie thinks deeply with an honesty and naturalness that are refreshing and often amusing; she may be an odd duck, but she often perceives things in a way that rings true. When her optometrist wonders why she squints despite her 20/20 vision, Evie reflects that she squints to see differently, not better. Readers may find that this book causes them to do just that. A sort of Henry James meets the 21st century, this novel might be slow going for some readers but will intrigue those who are not afraid of the English language. Recommended for larger public and academic libraries.-Sarah Blakeslee, California State Univ. Lib., Chico Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Anthropology of an American Girl 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 84 reviews.
revcat More than 1 year ago
Even before finishing this book, I kept thinking that this novel would be considered a classic by future college professors (or whoever decides such things!). It reminded me of an elongated and superior version of The Great Gatsby (not my favorite novel) as it contains a female character who is utterly defined by a time, a place and her lover. I think we forget the tragic drama encapsulated in the young and fall into the trap of thinking that the young and the beautiful have the world by a string. Not so, as this author tenderly reminds us. In some ways the exaggerated angst is a little baffling, but the author has a wonderful way of words and I was taken in by her spell, constantly pausing to marvel at her wonderful prose. It's not a book everyone would enjoy, and definitely not a quick read due to its length; but I am very happy I read it as it made me feel like I was in on the discovery of a noteworthy new author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was not intimidated by the size of this book when I purchased it, since I am a fast reader. However, once I began reading, I was dreading getting through 600 pages of long winded prose outlining the inner monologue of a teenage girl. The book has many beautifully written passages and is extremely descriptive. However, the story moves painfully slow. I am confused as to how Evie describes Rourke as the love of her life when they have barely exchanged words with each other. I'd rather see her with Jack who at least has some sort of personality and passion. I can't even make it past the 300 page mark because I'm completely bored of Evie internally disecting every single interaction, thought and feeling that she has every moment of every day. And I still don't understand what the point of the story is! Save your money and time and skip this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't finish it and I usually have no trouble finishing boring books- this book was beyond boring. The author was entirely too wordy, by the time she was finished describing something it was hard to remember what she was describing. I got 200 pages through this and nothing had really happened.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I only got through 96 pages and could not stand it anymore! This book is verbose, vague and depressing! I couldn't keep track of who was who or what was going on! The main character was more introspective than her outer relationships, which were just awkward! Don't waste your money!
Maine-Girl More than 1 year ago
This book has received some high praise, but also some sharp criticism. It is the author's first novel, originally self-published in 2003, then re-edited and released by Random House in 2010. The author describes it as loosely semi-autobiographical, and says she was examining how individuals approach the problem of identity-our choices and the narrowing of doorways as we age. She has written a coming of age story that begins in 1979 when the protagonist Eveline is an artistic, introspective seventeen-year-old high school student and ends in 1984 after her graduation from NYU. There is a lot of angst, drama, and soul-searching along the way. How much you like this book will depend, I think, on how much of a romantic you are, and to what degree you buy into the concept of true soul mates. At some 600 pages in length, Eveline's discovery of her soul mate, Harrison Rourke, their parting, her falling apart and then struggle for redemption is not a quick read. Personally, I love long novels when I enjoy reading them, but this is where I have mixed feeling about this book. The author has a facility with words and writes some very evocative, poetic scenes of Regan-era America. However, while the voice of the heroine is often poignant and wise, she can also be unpleasantly self-absorbed and bratty. I had a lot of difficulty with some of the dialog during Evie's high school years. Okay, I know she's bright, but some of the philosophical exchanges between her and her tormented friend/boyfriend Jack belong in the mouths of 30 to 40-year-olds, not teenagers. It will really stretch some readers' credibility. It also bothered me that Evie appears to be one of those girls/women who never form close and lasting female relationships, but always gravitates to men for intimacy. (Does every man have to love her?) And, as for the way she totally buries her values and personal integrity after losing Rourke, it's just too passive, narcissistic and self-absorbed for my taste. Especially for a character who's world view has been so sharp, her wit so dry, and her insights so keen. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps! I also agreed with another review that stated: The meat of this novel is so focused on Evie's internal world that it is hard to know how she comes across to her companions . . . A little dialogue on her part would have been a welcome substitute for the incessant reflection. All that said, I read the book to the very end. As one reviewer said: It's addictive reading. Many of the observations are dead-on, especially contrasts between Evie's hippie, house-by-the-tracks background and the wealthy movers and shakers of East Hampton and New York. The author obviously has a lot of talent, and I will definitely take a look at her next book.
bellapalisi More than 1 year ago
I am writing this review in code, so that you don't find any of the story leaking through. Read Anthropology of An American Girl, really allow yourself the space to READ it, somewhere quiet, so that you can have the time to experience every beautiful word. The novel deserves the space. You deserve the story. It moved me beyond words, but let me try... This my favorite book. After reading The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, I couldn't read anything for a while. I got back to reading, and then didn't feel that way again until Broken by Daniel Clay. And then again, a gap. A series of mediocre books. Until I found this book by chance. Anthropology of an American Girl has stolen my heart. The next book I read will be Anthropology of an American Girl. Again. Nothing can compare. I miss Eveline, and Rourke. And Jack. Sad, brave Jack. I want to believe that all of this really existed, that Rourke is real. And that he loves Evie. Somewhere. As I read and dog-eared pages, underlining favorite passages, I got lost in Evie's world, and didn't want to return to my own. I want to start it again, read it from the very beginning, knowing what I know now. My book survived the beach, pool water, and the occasional dribble of coffee from a mug too full. It is my most treasured physical possession. Finally, I want to see Jack's book. I loved what he wrote to Evie, at the end. He was a wise soul. I can imagine how it looked, mailed to Evie, tied up in blue ribbon. Come back, Eveline. You are sorely missed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had never heard of this book before until a friend told me about it over the holiday break, I think the author read at her school. I can't believe it's taken me a year to discover it! This is the most beautiful and honest book I've ever read. I've read all the classics and have tried to get into some contemporary work but have never had much luck. Before Anthropology I resorted to reading mostly non-fiction. It was such a pleasure to find an author that uses language so elegantly. In the paperback edition there¿s an introduction. I decided to read it after I finished the book. I'm really glad I read it after I finished the book, it's so cool the way she explains the characters and inspiration for the book, it's like listening the director's notes on a dvd. If anyone is looking for a great book to get you through the winter, and dream and hope for summer, I would highly recommend Anthropology of an American Girl!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm so glad to be done with this book. The premise was good, book had the potential to be an interesting story, but the author couldn't stay on track. It was like she was trying to write a grand novel, but instead it was wordy, to long, the characters lacked true development. The only reason I'm writing this review is in hopes that no one else makes the mistake of wasting their time and energy reading this pretensious novel.
kimby72 More than 1 year ago
I read this because I thought it was going to be a lot better and also because I live on Long Island. It was fun knowing the places referenced in the book. The characters are decent. Let's just say it's a good summer read on the beach.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished H.T. Hamann's 'Anthropology of an American Girl' and I loved it! A friend of mine recommended it to me and I was skeptical--I thought it would be a 'girl book.' I was completely wrong. (I guess you should never judge a book by it's cover, or title for that matter.) It was one of the best books I've ever read. Intellegent, vivid and real are the three words that come to mind. This book spoke to me like no other book has. I want everyone to share in this experience.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anthropology of an American Girl is the best book I have ever read. I have just finished it and I am going to read it again right away. It doesn't lie, and the author doesn't talk down to you. It makes me want to start writing my own story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not only is H.T. Hamann a wonderful writer and architect of beautiful words and emotions, but she created characters that remind us of people in or lives. No gimmicks or cliches, Anthropology of an American Girl is an amazing story and will leave you dreaming about love, choice and of course Evie and Rourke. Buy this book and encourage authors like Ms. Hamann to continue writing stories about real women and relevant issues.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this was a book that stayed with me from the first sentence to the last. I had difficulty putting it down, because even though it was over 600 pages long, I didn't want it to end. A beautiful story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You must read this book. If you are totally bored by chick-lit and other ez-reader books that are basically thick magazines and practically disposable, then find this book. Thank God it's long, because you feel like you have a friend in Eveline and you don't want to lose her. Even though it's a while back in the 70s and 80s she is cooler than anyone today. I recommend this book to anyone who loves to read and especially if you love classics. You will end up keeping it forever. This book makes you understand that the smallest choices you make can lead to the most tremendous consequences.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I met the author in Chicago at Barbara's and she happened to be very interesting so I bought this book. I guess because of the Girl in the title I might not have known about it. But as far as I'm concerned, it is about time and place and the cultural changes that came about in the Reagan years. It's a textbook of the times. What I'd like to know is how come this book isn't on any shows or in the papers more. How come we always have to hear about the same twelve things?? I mean, if it's a best seller, does it really need any more sales help?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was one of the lucky few who got to read this book when it was in the galley stages, and then again when it was finished. To me, it's an examination of heroism and home and these things that consume us as Americans. Things we search for. I happen to be 21, but my mother read the book and loved it, and so did all my roommates-from different cultures, so it's more of a classic piece of fiction intended for all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hamann's novel is by far one of the most relevant novels to grace bookshelves in decades. Her thoughtful, intimate portrayal of Evaline allows the reader to take part in her human and artistic development throughout the years of her adolescence and beyond.
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