Saturday, January 5, 2013

"Geek Girls Unite" by Leslie Simon

What do Amy Poehler, Bjork, Felicia Day, Martha Stewart, Miranda July, and Zooey Deschanel have in common? They're just a few of the amazing women proving that "geek" is no longer a four-letter word.

In recent years, male geeks have taken the world by storm. But what about their female counterparts? After all, fangirls are just like fanboys - they put on their Imperial Stormtrooper Lycra pants one leg at a time. [This book] is a call to arms for every girl who has ever obsessed over music, comics, film, comedy, books, crafts, fashion, or anything else under the Death Star. Music geek girl Leslie Simon offers an overview of the geek elite by covering groundbreaking women, hall-of-famers, ultimate love matches, and potential frenemies, along with her top picks for playlists, books, movies, and websites. This smart and hilarious tour through girl geekdom is a must-have for any woman who has ever wondered where her sassy rebel sisters have been hiding.

I've always considered myself a geek. A nerd. An uncool person. I wasn't popular in high school or college. I've never had what I would consider "a ton" of friends. When I saw this book in the library, I was instantly drawn to it, thinking I'd found my bible of sorts. Well, I was wrong.

According to Simon's definitions (because you must first define what a geek is, especially as there are concerns that a geek and a nerd are really the same thing), a geek is "a person who is wildly passionate about an activity, interest, or scientific field and strives to be an expert in said avocation." She then goes on to provide some geek girl archetypes, such as the The Fangirl Geek, The Literary Geek, The Film Geek, The Music Geek, The Funny-Girl Geek, and The Domestic Goddess Geek.

Each chapter begins with a short quiz, as you test your geek knowledge of each subject. (Hint, the answer is always "C".) Simon gives a brief overview of what the subject is, what the typical geek girl is like, some historical geek girls in said subject, what to watch for in frenemies, and finally, a list of best websites, books, music, films, etc that relate to each subject. There are cute and funny footnotes along the way, as well as quotes from famous and average geek girls in the side margins.

So why the disappointment, you ask? Well, I'm not stupid. I knew I wouldn't fit into most of the categories here, but I had expected to find soul sisters in the Literary Geek Girl chapter. Evidently, though, the author means "literary" in the strictest sense; there aren't any authors/works mentioned that are, what I would call, ordinary. Look, I love books and reading. I mean, I LOVE them. But I'm not a literary snob, and that's what I took away from this book. I have no interest in reading David Foster Wallace or Jonathan Franzen. I did read Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five but wasn't overly impressed (I probably just didn't "get it"). I enjoy reading lots of different types of books, including what I consider "fluff" - Regency romance or humor or just plain silly. I found myself thinking that I just didn't relate to the Literary Geek Girl after all.

Imagine my surprise when I got to the chapter "Miscellaneous Geek" and read the following: "Much of being a geek is feeling like you don't quite fit in, so it's only natural that this book should include a chapter for geekettes who didn't find kindred spirit in any of the above caricatures." (emphasis is mine here). AHA! Perhaps this is why I found myself skimming the last two or three chapters of this book; the descriptions just felt too over-the-top/fake/hipster-centric! (And keep in mind that this book is less than 200 pages...)

I went back to the definitions at the beginning of the book, and after re-reading them, I think it's safe to say that I am not a geek. I am, however, a nerd, "a person who excels academically and who thrives on such educationally induced pastimes as memorizing UNIX manuals and correcting your grammar. Such persons may not possess the most advanced social skills, but they are armed with a huge heart and an even bigger brain." Yeah, that sounds much more like me - well, except that I have no interest in programming, and I actually have mad social skills.

Overall, this book is OK. But keep in mind, as the author finally admits, that these are caricatures. Don't take anything in this book as gospel, and you'll be just fine.

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