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New book offers guide to the Brooklyn of HBO’s ‘Girls’

Brooklyn BookBeat

January 8, 2014 By Samantha Samel Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Crucial to HBO’s hit series “Girls” is its Brooklyn landscape. Perhaps this is no surprise; 27-year-old Lena Dunham, who created and stars in the show, was raised in Brooklyn and attended St. Ann’s School, where she met Jemima Kirke, another prominent actress in the show. Dunham, who moved back to Brooklyn after attending Oberlin College, takes her characters all across New York City — but Brooklyn figures most prominently in the setting and plot of “Girls.”  And now, just in time for the Jan. 12 premiere of Season 3 (which will air on HBO at 10 p.m., E.S.T.), there is a new book that pays homage to the show’s urban backdrop — Judy Gelman’s and Peter Zheutlin’s “The Unofficial ‘Girls’ Guide to New York” (Smart Pop/BenBella Books, Inc.), which offers the scoop on the neighborhoods, bars and other New York haunts portrayed in “Girls.”

Hannah, the main character in “Girls” who is played by Dunham, moves to Greenpoint after she graduates from college and her parents quickly withdraw their financial support. “The Unofficial ‘Girls’ Guide to New York” begins just there; Gelman and Zheutlin explain, “Located north of Williamsburg and across the East River from the Gramercy Park and Murray Hill neighborhoods of Manhattan, Greenpoint was, until several years ago, a tight-knit community of predominantly Polish immigrants, some here for generations and others newly arrived.”

The authors describe “Greenpoint at a Glance” and go on to illustrate specific streets and businesses that appear in the show. India Street, for instance, is photographed, since Hannah lives there with her friends, and a Polish Laundromat is shown “at the intersection of Norman Avenue and Jewel Street, near Hannah’s apartment. Hannah and Jessa [played by Kirke] walk past it while discussing Hannah’s boss’ advances and her relationship with Adam.” The Greenpoint chapter provides a brief description of the neighborhood’s history and changing demographics, and of course highlights Café Grumpy — the Meserole Ave. coffee shop at which Hannah works with Ray, another main character who manages the café. This section even shares Grumpy Café’s ‘Lemon Poppy Seed Nothing Bundt Trouble Cake’ recipe.

Gelman and Zheutlin provide similar histories and highlights in the various other Brooklyn neighborhoods featured in episodes of “Girls.” Williamsburg, which the authors point out “was one of the first Brooklyn neighborhoods to face an invasion from Manhattan,” is often pictured in the show. Gelman’s and Zheutlin’s book discusses such depicted features as the Edge, a luxury apartment complex; Spoonbill & Sugartown, the neighborhood’s arts-oriented bookstore; and Fada, a French bistro.

The “Girls” guide highlights Bushwick, as its warehouse parties and its uber hip pizza joint, Roberta’s, are portrayed in the show; Prospect Heights, as this neighborhood is home to Hannah’s love interest, Adam; and Coney Island, as Hannah winds up there when she falls asleep on the F train.

While “Girls” is a fictional TV show, its characters and scenes are eerily familiar to most anyone who spends time in the ever-evolving cultural hub that is Brooklyn. Gelman’s and Zheutlin’s “Unofficial ‘Girls’ Guide” is a fascinating and in-depth look at the geographical and social landscape of the show, offering readers —whether or not they are “Girls” fans — a way to explore some of the most important sites and institutions in Brooklyn today.

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To celebrate the book launch, the authors are offering weekly prizes from places connected with the show. This week it’s cupcakes; next week it’s Cafe Grumpy mugs. Upcoming prizes will include shopping and art tours and more! For a chance to win, visit

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