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Note: Mike is a good friend of mine from college and Minneapolis. He currently writes in his blog, A Flaming Wheel of Sliced Bread. Mike texted me out of the blue saying that I needed to pick up American Nerd so we could discuss and, if I wasn't impressed, he would "pay me back" the $20 cost of the book.

Dear Mike,

I finished American Nerd yesterday and I'm not sure if I want my $20 back or not. While I enjoyed the book in places and parts, overall I felt that it was kind of lacking, in some respects, of the whole spectrum of American Nerdom. Of course, this could have been his decision due to time and length constraints, but what he was really writing about what the American MALE Nerd and, more specifically, his experience as a American Male Nerd who didn't want to be labeled as such. In the end, if felt more like a book written to validate the choices he made to get out of that social sphere that he was in, compromising his own friendships.

What bothers me so much about the book is what he left out, mainly, female nerds and the internet. While brief mentions are made of both, he seems more centered on history and male input and views. Being a nerd (or is a geek? Do you think he crosses the two?) and having many female nerd friends, I was rather miffed to be excluded. While great pains are taken in tracking the male image of the nerd, few is mentioned about female nerds. As for the internet, while he talks briefly about how ham radio lingo morphed into l33t sp34k, there was no mention of what a social impact the internet had and still has on nerds. My group of friends out here, I'd say we all associate with being nerds or some form of that, is all because of the internet. It's how I met my equally nerdy boyfriend.

I'd also like to touch briefly on the idea that, while not directly stated but heavily implied, is that all nerds don't want to BE nerds, they all want to be part of the popular crowd. I take umbrage with this because I don't think that's true. Perhaps it is in smaller high schools or in situations where their own nerdy circle is not as tightly knit as they would hope, but I look at my own high school circle of friends and think that most of us didn't WANT to be preppy or jocks or anything else. While we hated being picked on (which only happened when we were outside our protective numbers) we realized that there was no reason to belong to a group of people that enjoyed picking on others. Besides, we had fun on our own. This is what leads me to believe that this is more of his own personal validation and his final acceptance of what he did to his fellow nerds in order to be "popular," or something.

So there you go - I'm thinking if I had just bought the book on Amazon.com for $13 I would have been a little bit more happy. So lets just say you owe me about $7?

I'm also incredibly interested on how you took the book and your own ideas. I'm also interested in Elaine's view, seeing how she's a fellow female who also read the book.

Mad Love,
Dude, I'm a happy nerd girl with a happy nerd husband she picked up on Livejournal. I think I qualify for nerd hall-of-famedom.
Thank you for writing this review. I'd heard of the book, and debated picking it up and mentioning it to my gaming crew. Now I think I may skip it. As a female nerd who has done numerous high school and college presentations about nerdy/geeky topics to various classes populated by "normals*," I have little interest in the writings of a "reformed" nerd. If I want to look at the history of nerd/geek culture, I'll talk to my parents, thanks.

*normals- a term my high school friends and I used to refer to all those other people crowding the halls. Yes, we were just as mean as the popular crowd in our way. "I think her last dye job finally melted whatever brain cells were still floating around in her skull" is a good example of the things whispered between us.
I liked of the book for a couple of points you don't mention. I loved the distinctions between the two ways people get to be nerds. I liked the history of the development of the nerd stereotype. I liked the connections between being Jewish and being a nerd and how that has morphed into being Asian and being a nerd. I liked the idea of old nerds being outpaced by the evolutions of the nerd. I kind of cried inside when the people with Asperberger's were pondering a world where there was noone like them anymore.

Now I'll admit to looking in the mirror of the book and not seeing himself. I don't think I ditched out on being a nerd but, despite my nerdish qualities, I certainly don't self-identify as a nerd. Still I sympathize with feeling like there's something different about yourself, of being marginalized for the things I like and like to do. Which is the essence of what sold me on the book. Nugent doesn't work from the general to the specific. He starts with his own (specific) experience and then lines it up in the spectrum of nerdom making the book closer to Klosterman than Chomsky. Because he does that, I can myself see where I fit on that spectrum.

This book is filed in cultural studies, yes. But it's largely memoir. As such, it's going to be about "what you know," and Nugent is writing about his experience being a nerd growing up in the 1980s. I'm sure he didn't intentionally snub nerd girls or the Internet. There weren't that many people on the Internet in the 1980s and Nugent writing about what it's like to be a female nerd would be like me writing about being a black man. This is just a guy writing about his experiences being a nerd and that leads him out in a few different directions which he explores further.

Any expectations I raised in you that this would be the Encylopaedia Nerdtannica were erroneous and unintended. However as Nugent points out nerd has become chic and the Encyclopaedia Nerdtannica would totally be on sale at Urban Outfitters. I pointed it out to you because "American Nerd" is the spiritual opposite of that.