All in a Name

All in a Name – Memoir Writing


When I read (or think about) memoirs and personal essays, I don’t usually imagine all the controversy that can be (and has been) connected with the genre. Of course, everyone has their own version of events. Telling each person’s “slant” on the truth can so quickly become a battle of words! Interestingly enough, though, the latest “slant” revolves around the use of a name (innocuously enough: Barry).

In the recently published memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham includes two passages about what has been described as rape. “Barry” is the name she used to represent the “rapist,” and that usage has since caused a flurry of controversy and debate (John Nolte covers various angles on Dunham’s story, and even claims that the rape claim evaporates like “pixie dust”). While she may have intended “Barry” as a pseudonym, readers have taken her passages to heart–they’ve found a Conservative man (named Barry), related to Oberlin College, and they’ve even postulated about his potential culpability.

Meanwhile, the rape has come under scrutiny, as Oberlin College says they’re investigating and the police say they can do nothing without cooperation from Dunham.

Amid the controversy, the mystery, and the allegations flying about–the character assassination (unintentional, though it may be) has affected the “real-life” Barry in ways he probably never would have imagined. The fallout has caused Mr. Minc to seek legal counsel, and he is also raising money via GoFundMe.

For its part, Random House (the publisher) has agreed to pay his legal fees,  and have pointed to the Copyright page displays a disclaimer: “some names and identifying details in the book have been changed,” according to The Wrap.

If the note on GoFundMe is any indication, the story won’t evaporate any time soon:

“We will continue to keep the GoFundMe campaign active to raise money for survivors of sexual assaults and for Barry’s ongoing legal expenses until we receive an apology from Ms. Dunham and both Ms. Dunham and Random House have taken all appropriate steps to clear Barry’s name and restore the damage caused to his reputation.”

So, what’s your take?


Esther is a full-time freelancer, who draws upon her background to deliver fun and compelling stories. To her, the story and the vehicle(s) of expression are important, but sometimes it's just as essential to explore those areas just outside one's comfort zone. She loves to jump head-first into that deep ravine, and discover where her parachute will take her.

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