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.
"Remember what if feels like to be 17? Hamann does, and her heroine, Eveline Auerbach, sounds like somebody many of us knew or were....Hamann's depiction of time and place is stunningly accurate. A realistic, resonant, and universal story." Sara Nelson, O! Magazine
"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...a marvelously complex and tragic figure of disconnection, startlingly real and exposed at all times." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"This impressive debut is epic but not overwrought, and brilliant without the slightest hint of smugness. It has earned its pre-publication buzz, and then some. Although Hamann has set the narrative in Long Island and Manhattan in the early 1980s, it could take place anywhere in the United States. Its concerns heartbreak, self-discovery and loss are universal…Hamann has taken a familiar theme, coming of age, and created an utterly original novel....On every page, Hamann's prose brims with energy and insight....A rare kind of novel at once sprawling and intimate whose excellence matches its grand ambition." Dallas Morning News
"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
"As vast and ambitious as the country itself....A very respectable and serious descendant of the work of D.H. Lawrence...Hamann has put together a carefully devised, coherent world, filled with opinions that need to be spoken and heard." Washington Post
This is what it’s like to be a high-school-age girl.
To forsake the boyfriend you once adored.
To meet the love of your life, who just happens to be your teacher.
To discover for the first time the power of your body and mind.
This is what it’s like to be a college-age woman.
To live through heartbreak.
To suffer the consequences of your choices.
To depend on others for survival but to have no one to trust but yourself.
This is Anthropology of an American Girl.
A literary sensation, this extraordinarily candid novel about the experience of growing up female in America will strike a nerve in readers of all ages.
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.