Friday, September 30, 2011

Book Review - Geek Girls Unite: How Fangirls, Bookworms, Indie Chicks, and Other Misfits Are Taking Over the World

Today marks the release of a brand new book celebrating lady geeks of all kinds, Geek Girls Unite: How Fangirls, Bookworms, Indie Chicks, and Other Misfits Are Taking Over the World , by editor (and author, natch) Leslie Simon. The book takes an in depth look at six different type of Geek Girls; the Fangirl, Literary Geek, Film Geek, Music Geek, Funny-Girl Geek, and Domestic Goddess Geek, and a cursory look at a few more, including geeks of the Tech, Fashionista, Political, Retro and Athletic variety. The purpose is to inspire geek girls everywhere to be proud of who they are, gain insight in other areas fellow women are geeking out over, and feel motivated to seek out like minded women. Despite some quibbles I may have had with certain sections, ultimately, the book succeeds.

First off, the book is an incredibly easy read. Each section features a quiz (spoiler alert: the answer is always C. The quiz functions more as a learning tool, less an actual quiz, so don't be dismayed by this reveal), describes the type of girl, provides a history of the subject at hand and the role of women in the field, provides examples of women who exemplify that type of geek, a list of qualities that represent the opposite of who we are, a list of qualities that represents what we might be looking for in a mate, website suggestions, book suggestions, song suggestions, film suggestions, and more fun tidbits, specific to the type of girl being described like book club suggestions, a Fangirl lexicon, modern day ettiquette ideas and more. It's quick, fun, informative, and strewn with simple yet delightful illustrations.

While the descriptions of the various geek girls in the book can at times be extremely generic (literary geeks wear jeans! funny girls are snarky!), there remains enough truth for it to not be written off completely. The sections where Simon is writing about the topics she truly knows about feel deeply personal and interesting. Simon is a self professed Music Geek and the section on gals that share this quality reflects that fact well. I particularly appreciated the list of ground breaking and acclaimed female rock journalists. I had never heard of any of these women, but should have, considering the impact they have made on the music scene.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the Fangirl section, I'm somewhat conflicted. It's spunky and fun and I'm honored to be mentioned as a web suggestion, but I can't help but think this type of Fangirl isn't me. If the geeky things described in this section represent the author's type of Fangirl, then more power to her. I just happened to be disappointed by a couple things. I've never had an affinity for Hello Kitty, which is presented as something true fangirls geek out about, and I don't give two shits about Twilight, which a whole section is dedicated to, although not necessarily in a positive light. The worst offense? Olivia Munn is listed in the important geeks section. Olivia "I'm not a geek but I play one on TV - literally" Munn. Gets a shout out right alongside the truly worthy Bonnie Burton and Felicia Day. I would hate for aspiring Fangirls to open up the book, see Olivia Munn's name, and think she is a shining example of Geekdom.

But for every section that attempted to describe me, yet fell short of nailing the details, like the Fangirl Geek or Film Geek (I just don't understand what makes Zooey Deschenal or Maggie Gyllenhaal "Film Geeks"), came a section on something I didn't know much about, but that interested me enough to take copious notes and plan on researching further. I learned that Baroque Pop is a term for a style of music I quite enjoy, and that Julian Casablancas (whom I love) is responsible for plucking Regina Spektor (whom I also love) from obscurity. I learned that Tina Fey lost her virginity at 24. I learned about a dating website for bookworms at  I learned about the "Church of Craft", Built by Wendy and the design style of Hollywood Regency. I learned about Girl Develop IT and am now desperately wishing for a Los Angeles chapter. Plus, any book that uses the word loquacious four times and gives a shout out to Kittens Inspired by Kittens is a book after my own heart. A high point is truly the website suggestions for each section, and I promise I'm not just saying that cause my own website made the cut. I can't wait to further explore these other areas of Geekdom and the bookmarks are a huge first step.

I'm glad a book is out there like this, saying it's okay to be a geek and making it fun. I wish it could have represented my type of geek a little bit more handily, but it's fun enough and accessible enough that I can definitely recommend it, especially as a gift for a girl, geek or not, with an open mind and willingness to expand her interests. But get it for a fellow geek girl, and you guys can read it together, complain about what Simon gets wrong, then learn more about what she gets right. Definitely one of the highlights of reading this book has been comparing notes with female friends on whether Jane Austen is given appropriate due or if the Domestic Goddess section should have put more of a focus on the culinary arts. And at the end of the day, that is precisely what this book is aiming to do. Get us chatting with other women, discover our friends' secret passions, or start a Geek Girls Guild and own our geekiness with pride. It's a sweet sentiment and an intention noble enough to let some mild pandering and ill advised choices (I repeat - Olivia Munn) slide.

Now if you don't mind, I have to check out The Style Rookie, order Sloane Crosley's How Did You Get This Number from Amazon, and look up when the next Renegade Craft Fair in Los Angeles is.

Geek Girls Unite
Author: Leslie Simon
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: October 4th, 2011
Amazon Link