#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso
Published: May 6th, 2014 by Portfolio
Genres: Self-help, business, motivational, memoir, non-fiction
Trigger Warnings: none, really.
Pages: 238 pgs in paperback
**I received a copy of this book for free from Social Book Co. in exchange for my honest review as part of their Book Review Program.**
The founder of Nasty Gal offers a sassy and irreverent manifesto for ambitious young women
At seventeen, Sophia Amoruso decided to forgo continuing education to pursue a life of hitchhiking, dumpster diving, and petty thievery. Now, at twenty-nine, she is the Founder, CEO, and Creative Director of Nasty Gal, a $100+ million e-tailer that draws A-list publicity and rabid fans for its leading-edge fashion and provocative online persona. Her story is extraordinary—and only part of the appeal of #GIRLBOSS.
This aspirational book doesn’t patronize young women the way many business experts do. Amoruso shows readers how to channel their passion and hard work, while keeping their insecurities from getting in the way. She offers straight talk about making your voice heard and doing meaningful work.
She’s proof that you can be a huge success without giving up your spirit of adventure or distinctive style. As she writes, “I have three pieces of advice I want you to remember: Don’t ever grow up. Don’t become a bore. Don’t let The Man get to you. OK? Cool. Then let’s do this.”
If there’s one mantra that I always hoped would come back into vogue, it’d be “Don’t hate, congratulate.” Celebrating the achievements and groundbreaking moments of others is so fulfilling, so I definitely think it’s great that Sophia Amoruso has come so far with her business within the last ten years of its existence. She truly embodies the spirit of building yourself up from rock bottom and reaping the rewards of hard work.
With that being said, her foray into the literary world, #GIRLBOSS, probably wasn’t the best way for her to showcase her accomplishments. And this is where my congratulations stops. Humble bragging is awesome and, honestly, encouraged in this day and age; however, there does reach a point where the humble bragging takes a wrong turn to become straight up gloating, which is the unfortunate part of this book. What could have been a wonderful and empowering manifesto on how to break into the world of fashion and prove all of the naysayers wrong quickly became an insufferable account of how much better she is than those around her.
Truth be told, I was excited about this book when I first got it, as I’d heard great things about it through the grapevine. The thing, though, is that she essentially ends up repeating the same three or four stories about her progress from eBay Queen to Nasty Galaxy Empress throughout the entire 230 or so pages. Over and over, we’re told about how she had to deal with The Haters on both eBay and MySpace, how she was a vagabond up and down the West Coast in the early 2000’s, how she was the ultimate rags to riches story. That’s great. I’m proud of her. But to repeat them ad nauseam over the course of an already short book quickly gets old.
It didn’t help that she rubbed me the wrong way in the beginning of the book with this completely incorrect interpretation of what it means to be a feminist:
“Does this mean it’s a feminist manifesto?
Oh God. I guess we have to talk about this.
#GIRLBOSS is a feminist book, and Nasty Gal is a feminist company in the sense that I encourage you, as a girl, to be who you want and do what you want. But I’m not here calling us ‘womyn’ and blaming men for any of my struggles along the way.”
Like way to completely miss the point, Sophia. I was totally buying it up until that point (not very far into the book, mind you), because she has such a breezy, conversational way of writing. It’s so vastly different and refreshing from the hoity-toity business books with which I’ve become acquainted in my new job. Her words resonate in my head just as if she and I were having a cocktail in the very bar in which this review is being written.
However, to dismiss an entirely valid portion of the movement she claims to espouse is, frankly, lazy. Just because men might not have impeded her in anyway (which is not true, because she does tell us how no investors or merchandisers took her seriously due to her age and gender), doesn’t mean that there aren’t women out there reading this book who haven’t been blocked from succeeding by men. This is not the only instance of an anecdote that breaks up the flow of the book. Oh, there are more. So many more.
When Amoruso is actually doling out business advice for young women, it’s actually decent advice. Don’t approach something with the loftiest of goals — instead, make your brand/business/product be the best it can be. Don’t be afraid to edit or fail. She even has a chapter devoted to pulling oneself out of a bad credit and debt situation. That’s the kind of solid, empowering content that I was hoping to see more of between the covers. Too bad it’s kind of few and far between.
I can’t say that I hate this book, because I don’t! There are points that are really valuable for any young woman focused on striking it out on her own in the Real World. It even come from a older sister-like figure that makes it feel a bit more acceptable that we’re looking for business advice in the first place. But the nuggets of gold are hard to find underneath the piles of self-aggrandizing storytelling and other unnecessary bits of one-off anecdotes that don’t really flow with the rest of the text around it. I guess I’m, at least, motivated to be a #GIRLBOSS of my own flavor.
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