Anthropology of an American Girl

Anthropology of an American Girl

by Hilary Thayer Hamann


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385527156
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/14/2011
Pages: 592
Sales rank: 311,477
Product dimensions: 8.02(w) x 5.56(h) x 1.24(d)

About the Author

Hilary Thayer Hamann was born and raised in New York. After her parents divorced, she was shuttled between their respective homes in the Hamptons and the Bronx. She attended New York University, where she received a B.F.A. in Film & Television Production and Dramatic Writing from Tisch School of the Arts, an M.A. in Cinema Studies from the Graduate School of Arts and Science, and a Certificate in Anthropological Filmmaking from NYU’s Center for Media, Culture, and History.
Ms. Hamann edited and contributed to Categories—On The Beauty of Physics (2006), an interdisciplinary educational book that was included in Louisiana State University’s list of top 25 non-fiction books written since 1950.
As the assistant to Jacques d’Amboise, founder and artistic director of the National Dance Institute, Ms. Hamann produced We Real Cool, a short film based on the Gwendolyn Brooks poem, directed by Academy Award-winning director Emile Ardolino. She also coordinated an international exchange with students from America and the then Soviet Union based on literature, music, and art. She has worked in New York’s film, publishing, and entertainment industries, and is co-director of Films on the Haywall, a classic film series in Bridgehampton, New York.
Ms. Hamann lives in Manhattan and on Long Island.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Kate turned to check the darkening clouds and the white arc of her throat looked long like the neck of a preening swan. We pedaled past the mansions on Lily Pond Lane and the sky set down, resting its gravid belly against the earth.

“Hurry,” I heard her call through the clack of spokes. “Rain’s coming.”

She rode faster, and I did also, though I liked the rain and I felt grateful for the changes it wrought. Nothing is worse than the mixture of boredom and anticipation, the way the two twist together, breeding malcontentedly. I opened my mouth to the mist, trapping some of the raindrops that were just forming, and I could feel the membranes pop as I passed, which was sad, like breaking a spider’s web. Sometimes you can’t help but destroy the intricate things in life.

At Georgica Beach we sat on the concrete step of the empty lifeguard building. The bicycles lay collapsed at our ankles, rear wheels lightly spinning. Kate lit a joint and passed it to me. I drew from it slowly. It burned my throat, searing and disinfecting it, making me think of animal skins tanned to make teepees. Indians used to get high, and when they did, they felt high just the same as me.

“Still do get high,” I corrected myself. Indians aren’t extinct.

“What did you say?” Kate asked.

“Nothing,” I said. “Just thinking of Indians.”

Her left foot and my right foot were touching. They were the same size and we shared shoes. I leaned forward and played with the plastic-coated tip of her sneaker lace, poking it into the rivet holes of my Tretorns as the rain began to descend halfheartedly before us. In my knapsack I found some paper and a piece of broken charcoal, and I began to sketch Kate. The atmosphere conformed to her bones the way a pillow meets a sleeping head. I tried to recall the story of the cloth of St. Veronica—something about Christ leaving his portrait in blood or sweat on a woman’s handkerchief. I imagined the impression of Kate’s face remaining in the air after she moved away.

“Know what I mean?” she was asking, as she freed a frail charm from her turtleneck, a C for Catherine, lavishly scripted.

“Yes, I do,” I said, though I wasn’t really sure. I sensed I probably knew what she meant. Sometimes our thoughts would intertwine, and in my mind I could see them, little threads of topaz paving a tiny Persian byway.

My hand sawed across the paper I was sketching on, moving mechanically, because that’s the way to move hands when you’re high and sitting in an autumn rain. Autumn rains are different from summer ones. When I was seven, there were lots of summer rains. Or maybe seven is just the age when you become conscious of rain. That’s when I learned that when it rains in one place, it doesn’t rain all over the world. My dad and I were driving through a shower, and we reached a line where the water ended. Sun rays windmilled down, and our faces and arms turned gilded pink, the color of flamingos—or was it flamencos?

“Flamingos,” Kate corrected. “Flamenco is a type of dance.”

I remember spinning around in the front seat of the car to see water continuing to fall behind us on the highway. That was the same year I learned that everyone gets eyeglasses eventually and that there’s no beginning to traffic. That last thing bothered me a lot. Whenever I got into a car, I used to think, Today might be the day we reach the front.

The rain let up. I stood and gave Kate my hand. “Let’s go to the water.”

She stood too, wiping the sand off the back of her pants, half- turning to check herself, stretching one leg out at a five o’clock angle, the way girls do. We walked our bikes to the crest of the asphalt lot and leaned them against the split rail fence.

The sea was bloated from the tide. It was dark and thick on top: you could tell that underneath there was churning. A hurricane was forming off the coast of Cuba, and Cuba isn’t far from where we lived on the South Shore of Long Island, not in terms of weather. Surfers in black rubber sat slope-backed on boards near the jetty, waiting for waves, steady as insects feeding off a deeply breathing beast, lifting and dropping with each wheeze of their massive host. I stripped down to my underwear and T-shirt and left my clothes in a pile. Kate did the same.

The sand closest to the shore was inscribed with drop marks from the rain, and there were springy bits of seaweed the color of iodine gyrating in the chalky foam. I pushed through until I couldn’t see my calves anymore. The water was purplish and rough, and it knocked against me, setting me off balance. It felt good to succumb—sometimes you get tired, always having to be strong in yourself.

Dad said that in Normandy during World War II soldiers had to climb from ships into the sea and then onto shore. They had waded through the ocean with packs on their backs and guns in their arms. He hadn’t fought in Normandy; he just knew about it because he knows lots of things and he’s always reading. He said the men had to get on the beach and kill or be killed. I wondered what those soldiers had eaten for breakfast—scrambled eggs, maybe—all the boys lining two sides of a galley’s gangling table, hanging their heads and taking dismal forkfuls while thinking about what was awaiting them on the shore. Maybe they were thinking of getting one last thing from their lockers, where they kept pictures of their families or of their girls, or maybe just Betty Grable pinups.

It’s one thing to say you’re willing to die for your country, but it’s another thing to have to do so when the moment actually presents itself. I could not have imagined Jack or Denny or anyone from my class dying to defend America, though everyone said that war was coming again, and also the draft, just like with Vietnam. The Russians are crazy, people said. This time it’s going to be nuclear. This time we’re all going to go in one atomic blush.

Kate came alongside me. “God, this water is black.”

My mother refuses to go into the ocean. She respects it, she says, which is basically the same as saying she’s afraid. I go in because it scares me, because certain fears are natural and it’s good to distract yourself from unnatural, more terrifying kinds. For example, the ocean can kill you just like a bomb can kill you, but at least the ocean is not awful like bombs or surreal like overgrown greenhouses, or alarming like the barking sounds that flushing toilets make.

In elementary school we used to have emergency civil defense drills. The lights would go out, and we would rise in synchronized silence, obeying hushed orders and furtive hand signals, rustling like herds of terrified mice––if in fact it can be said that mice manifest in herds rather than as random runners. No one ever told us which particular emergency we were drilling to avoid. Probably Russians then too. The thought of Russians attacking eastern Long Island seemed unlikely, though it is true that East Hampton has beaches like the ones in Normandy. Beaches are a threshold.

I asked Kate if she remembered yellow alerts.

She said she did. “And red ones.”

“Didn’t we have to kneel under our desks for one kind, like this?” I put my head to my chest and locked my fingers around my neck.

“And with the other type,” Kate said, “we had to do the same thing, only in the hall.”

“Right,” I said with a shiver. “That is so fucked up.”

She cupped her mouth and imitated an implausibly tranquil public address warning. It was like a European airport voice, like the one we heard at Charles de Gaulle airport when we went to France with the French Club—sterile and cybernetic, glassy and opaque, like rocks at the bottom of a fishbowl. Kate was good with voices.

“This is a yellow alert. This is a yellow alert. Remain calm and follow the instructions of your teacher.”

“Which is which?” I asked. “Like, what do the colors mean?”

“Bombs, probably,” she said. “Different styles.”

“But a bomb is a bomb. We wouldn’t have been any safer in the hallway than in the classrooms. Why not just stay at our desks?”

There was a rush of water. Kate lost her footing.

I continued to speculate. “They must have moved us out because the classrooms had something the halls didn’t have—windows. And the only reason they would have wanted us away from windows was if something was outside, like, coming in.”

Kate said, “Christ, Evie!”

“A land attack. Gunfire. Grenades. Red alert. Death by blood. Yellow meant gas. Death by bombs. Nukes.” Jack was always talking about the massive radiation release that was coming.

The rain had passed; all that remained up above was a series of garnet streaks. The sea slapped ominously, confessing its strategic impartiality. The sea is an international sea, and the sky a universal sky. Often we forget that. Often we think that what is verging upon us is ours alone. We forget that there are other sides entirely.

Kate and I waded quickly back to shore. As soon as we could, we broke free of the backward pull of the waves and started running. We dressed, yanking our Levi’s up over our wet legs, one side, then the other. Sand got in, sticking awfully.

“Shit,” she said as we scaled the dune to the lot. “I’m never getting high with you again.”

At Mill Hill Lane Kate cut left across Main Street, and I followed. The lane was steep and tree-lined. As we rounded the bend making a right onto Meadow Way, Kate’s foot lifted from the pedal, and her leg swung straight back over the seat, parallel to the ground, making me think of fancy skaters. She hopped off in front of a brown ranch house —her house—lying low, like a softly sleeping thing beneath a custodial cover of tree branches. A small sign marked the rim of the lawn—For Sale. Lamb Agency. Kate bent to collect fallen leaves and twigs from around the crooked slate walkway, which seemed like a lonely project. Once when we were little, maybe about nine, Kate swore she had the distances between the slate pieces of the walkway memorized. At the time I called her a liar, not because she was one but because that’s the sort of thing to say when you’re nine. But Kate had skipped to the first tile, closed her eyes, and continued along the twisting, broken path, never missing a step, never touching grass.

“Hey, Kate,” I called. She turned to me, her face tilting into the half-light. “Remember walking on the slate with our eyes closed?”

“Of course,” she said.

“Can you still do it?”

“Sure.” She set down the sticks she’d collected and she did it like it was nothing. When she was done, she said, “You try.”

I couldn’t exactly say no, since it had been my idea in the first place. My bike made a thumping sound when I dropped it. I went to the beginning and closed my eyes, trying to imagine the path I’d taken hundreds of times before. My neck felt vulnerable with my eyes closed, as though some famished thing might come and bite it.

“No grass,” I heard her say. I raised my right leg, and while considering where to step, my foot fell, landing inches ahead, slightly to one side. “Whoa,” she said. “You just made it.”

I only had to decide where my foot was going to go before I lifted it. I only had to imagine the next step. I stepped again, and life moved to greet me. I felt particulate, like pieces matching pieces. I heard the benign crinkle of the trees as the wind swept into the branches, and the music of birds popping to life like individual instruments singled out from an orchestra. I’d gone over ten pieces of slate; four more remained. I half-swung my right leg to the right, then lowered it. My heel left a pulpy impression.

“Grass!” Kate shouted. “I win!”

I opened my eyes to a flare of light. All that endured of the dark was a nostalgic radiance, like when you shut off a television and the shadow of the picture lingers like a miniscule ghost on the screen.

Kate and I sat on the front step of her parents’ house, watching the orphan moon elude the embrace of the trees. She was silent. I wondered if she too was waiting for the yellow porch light to click on, for the screen door to creak open from inside, for her mother to say, On rentre, mes cheries. Come back in, my loves.

The last time the door opened on us, Maman didn’t smile. That was May. Maman’s birthday is in May, was in May—I’m not sure how it goes with birthdays, whether they die when you do. Her arm unbended with difficulty to prop the door; when it snapped back on her, I caught it.

“Bon soir, Eveline,” she murmured.

When Kate’s mother said my name, she did not say Ev-a-line, the way most people did, but E-vleen, the first part coming from her mouth, the last part escaping from the cage of her throat. We embraced. Her shoulders floated waifishly within the vigorous circle of my arms. I wondered, When did she get so small? Kate and I followed her from room to room, and the floorboards grunted. In the dining room, her fingers skimmed the keys of her husband’s piano. He’d died one year before; immediately after burying him, Maman had become terminally ill. Sometimes you hear of people who are so much in love that they die together.

“I did have this piano tuned yesterday, Catherine,” Maman said in hobbled English, “in case you do ever wish to play again.” Ca-trine.

I adjusted the armchair Kate and I had moved to the kitchen weeks before, when the side effects of the chemotherapy had started to become severe. We lowered Maman down by the armpits, the way you bring a toddler to a stand, only in reverse. I tucked the chair under the table, inching her closer until she sighed, “Ah bien.”

From the Hardcover edition.

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Anthropology of an American Girl 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 106 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.
LadyMuck on LibraryThing 23 days ago
Atrocious navel-gazing nonsense. Boring teenagers spout banalities, while the reader sighs when looking at just how many pages of this rubbish is left to wade through.I lasted 100 pages. I think I deserve a medal.
ashleyh8584 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
I had a hard time with this book until around page 200. The beginning was so slow, but after awhile I was able to get into this book and what an amazing book it was. I couldn't believe the amount of drama, and struggles the main character. Great book for those who are going through this transition from childhood to adulthood. However, being one that has past this transition, it is great to think back to how much we can relate to the main character struggles of love, and death. Overall, I would recommend this book.
tela1226 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Anthropology of an American Girl by Hillary Thayer Hamann is a beautifully written novel chronicling several years in the life of a young woman named Eveline. Set in the early 1980s, it dissects themes of wealth, power, sex, and drugs. Eveline surrounds herself with a colorful cast of characters, mostly men, and occasionally loses her identity in the process. In the end she seems to find herself and happiness. It is unfortunate, however, that in the five years or so that we know Eveline, she does little for herself. She is portrayed as an intelligent and talented young woman, but those assets seem to be wasted as she concentrates on finding true love.
usagijihen on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Won as apart of the First Reads/LibraryThing giveaway. You don't really get a novel these days that talks about American culture and its subcultures of the late 70s and early 80s, and if you do, you certainly don't get one coming from the voice of a girl in bloom.Hamann's prose is lyrical and lush, perfectly capturing ambiguous states of being that only teenagers can really name and that adults forget all too easily. She captures the general uneasiness of America at the time through Evie's voice, the uneasiness of being a girl growing up in general. I have not read the original, but even at around 600 pages, no words are wasted nor drawn out. Hamann's words may linger dreamily like a summer day after you read them, but they do not do so on the page. Haunting and lovely. One of the best of 2010 so far.(Crossposted to LibraryThing)
rbaech on LibraryThing 29 days ago
I tried to give this book a good shot, but honestly it just lagged. The stories seemed simultaneously too convoluted and too cliched. It's a bad sign when, while reading a book, you keep thinking of other books that expressed the same concept better.
writestuff on LibraryThing 29 days ago
Eveline ¿Evie¿ Auerbach is growing up in East Hampton, New York in the late 1970¿s. She is a philosophical young woman trying to uncover who she is as she navigates the uncertain waters of her senior year in high school and the transition to college in New York City. Anthropology of an American Girl opens in the fall of 1979 as Evie enters her final year of high school. Her best friend, Kate, has just lost her mother to cancer and is living with Evie and Evie¿s mother. The two girls have a close relationship which is being tested by loss, grief, and the simple fact that they are growing up and apart. Evie is struggling with her relationship with her boyfriend, Jack ¿ a boy who is angry, cynical, and a bit possessive. Evie and Jack seem to be perfect for each other ¿ they are both artists (Jack a musician, while Evie likes to make sketches and create art) and they love to have deep and intellectual discussions, but their relationship is soon strained by an older man named Harrison Rourke. Predictably, Evie ends her uneven relationship with Jack and begins an affair with Rourke which is doomed to fail. Anthropology of An American Girl is a coming of age story which follows the life of one girl as she grows from adolescence into young adulthood.I had heard a lot about this book before deciding to read it ¿ and it seemed as though I was the perfect target audience for this novel since I came of age during the same time period as Evie. I graduated from high school in 1978 (a year before Evie does) and went on to college, graduating in 1982. But, I had a hard time relating to Evie who comes across much older than her years and has a flair for the melodramatic. Perhaps it was Hamann¿s tendency to liberally pepper her writing with metaphor, but I grew tired of being inside of Evie¿s head.The novel is not without merit. I enjoyed some of the insights into aging. The idealism of youth is perfectly encapsulated through Evie¿s unique view of the world.I also enjoyed some of the late 1970s references which catapulted me back to my own youth, like the reference to ¿Pappagallo purses with the wood handles and the button-on fabric covers¿ ¿ yes, I owned one of these!Despite these positives, I found myself rolling my eyes when Evie falls into her angst-driven monologues and melodramatic depictions of love.I know teens can be overemotional about life, love and everything in between, but I don¿t necessarily want to spend 600 pages reading about it.I really wanted to love this novel. I pushed myself through it hoping that it would come together for me. But in the end, I found myself wishing that it had been half its length. I think my disappointment stems from characters who I could not relate to, and language which was just a bit too flowery and overwrought to satisfy me.
Florinda on LibraryThing 29 days ago
Originally self-published several years ago, Hilary Thayer Hamann¿s first (and this far, only) novel, Anthropology of an American Girl, caught my attention upon its 2010 hardcover publication, and I jumped at the chance to read it for this tour.Hamann¿s personal biography, according to her website, shares a number of details with that of her American Girl, Eveline (Evie) Auerbach. ¿...(B)orn and raised in New York. Her parents divorced when she was three and she was shuttled between their respective homes in the Hamptons and the Bronx. She attended Sag Harbor Elementary School, East Hampton High School, and New York University...She was actively involved in the community theater of the East End from age 9 until age 19, participating in the productions of at least 30 plays, including several at Guild Hall...¿Hamann¿s bio doesn¿t include whether her high-school boyfriend was a gifted musician with a drug problem, whether her first, and defining, love was a drama coach/professional boxer several years older than she was, or whether she was once engaged to a yuppie investment banker who treated her as a prize. While there are autobiographical elements, Anthropology IS a novel, so the reader hopes that a good chunk of the story really is fiction. Evie¿s story should be her own.And while it is her own, at the same time, Evie¿s story isn¿t particularly unique - and that¿s what makes it resonate. The struggle to define oneself as one emerges into adulthood is pretty universal, and can be especially challenging for young women who have defined themselves in relation to men first. Young love affairs, particularly those which are truncated for one reason or another, have a tendency to assume a consuming, almost tragic, importance in one¿s personal history. As she works toward becoming herself as a student, an artist, a friend, and an individual, Evie continues to see herself in terms of her relationship with Harrison Rourke.A reader¿s response to the relationship between Evie and Rourke will probably affect her response to the novel as a whole...and I admit I had issues with it. Part of that comes from my own objections to significant age differences: this relationship starts when Rourke is in his mid-twenties and Evie is seventeen - and at those ages, the difference is significant. (The fact that Rourke was casually dating Evie¿s best friend Kate at the time - also a high-school student - is pretty well glossed over, but I think that¿s in keeping with the self-absorption of an adolescent first-person narrator.) The heightened intensity and romanticizing of the relationship is in character, but it bothered me in part because, as a result of it, I never felt I got a good sense of who Rourke was as a character. I didn¿t feel that Hamann made the relationship as profound to me as it clearly was to Evie; I just couldn¿t see it as much more than strong attraction. Evie seems to see herself as an object of attraction quite frequently, actually, and that got under my skin as well. While that may well be a legitimate part of her work to define herself, I¿ve rarely seen myself that way and just can¿t relate to it, so please be aware that¿s strictly a personal reaction.Despite all that, I really did like Evie as a character overall, and I found some of the supporting characters quite appealing, particularly Evie¿s screwed-up high-school boyfriend Jack and Rourke¿s friend Rob Cirillo, the MBA with ¿family¿ ties in New Jersey. The story spans the time frame from 1978 to 1984, a period when I was roughly the same age as Evie, which gave my reading of it a specific context and made many of the references click; I thought Hamann¿s evocation of time and place was quite effective. The novel is rather sprawling and wanders a bit in the middle; I liked the first and last sections best, and frankly, the whole thing is probably longer than it needs to be. The writing in some places displays some first-novel self-consciousness, but it includes some insightfu
scunagorelik on LibraryThing 29 days ago
Not sure what I really thought of it other than, it was a long book that took me a long time to read. It didn't help that I kept putting it down, picking it up, putting it down again. Probably just not my cup of tea or I just wasn't as enthralled as other people have been.