Synopses & Reviews
Self-published in 2003, Hilary Thayer Hamann’s Anthropology of an American Girl
touched a nerve among readers, who identified with the sexual and intellectual awakening of its heroine, a young woman on the brink of adulthood. A moving depiction of the transformative power of first love, Hamann’s first novel follows Eveline Auerbach from her high school years in East Hampton, New York, in the 1970s through her early adulthood in the moneyed, high-pressured Manhattan of the 1980s.
Centering on Evie’s fragile relationship with her family and her thwarted love affair with Harrison Rourke, a professional boxer, the novel is both a love story and an exploration of the difficulty of finding one’s place in the world. As Evie surrenders to the dazzling emotional highs of love and the crippling loneliness of heartbreak, she strives to reconcile her identity with the constraints that all relationships — whether those familial or romantic, uplifting to the spirit or quietly detrimental—inherently place on us. Though she stumbles and strains against social conventions, Evie remains a strong yet sensitive observer of the world around her, often finding beauty and meaning in unexpected places.
Newly edited and revised since its original publication, Anthropology of an American Girl is an extraordinary piece of writing, original in its vision and thrilling in its execution.
"If publishers could figure out a way to turn crack into a book, it'd read a lot like this. Originally a self-published cult hit in 2003 (since reedited), Hamann's debut traces the sensual, passionate, and lonely interior of a young woman artist growing up in windswept East Hampton at the end of the 1970s. The book begins as a two-pronged tragedy befalls 17-year-old narrator Eveline: her best friend's mother (more maternal than her own) dies, and Eveline is raped by two high school students. Her brutalized interior, exquisitely rendered by Hamann, leads Eveline to a series of self-realizations that bears obvious comparison to that iconic nonconformist Holden Caulfield. The difference, though, is Eveline's femininity threatens to subsume her fragility. Over the course of the book, she falls deeply in love with a stormy figure who helps bring her to disturbing conclusions. Eveline bent on self-destruction but capable of deep passion, stifled by circumstance but constantly blossoming is a marvelously complex and tragic figure of disconnection, startlingly real and exposed at all times." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A cinematic and emotionally ripe debut novel...in gorgeous language and with brilliant observation." Ms. Magazine
"What Catcher in the Rye did for high school youths troubled by the onslaught of adulthood, Anthropology of an American Girl does for college women struggling to reconcile their dreams with reality....[A] modern Jane Eyre — a stunning novel to be read and re-read." Columbia Spectator
"Though ultimately more soap opera than literary anthropology, Hamann's novel is not without its interests, among them the verisimilitude of its setting and several extremely well realized male characters." Booklist
"[A]n extraordinary debut....[I]t 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, sensual way of seeing. Gorgeous detail and nuanced thought...an insightful, page-turning read." The Providence Journal
A stunning debut about a young girl's coming of age and finding love, set in East Hampton and Manhattan in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
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 and 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.