“A cult sensation.”

Seven years ago, Hilary Thayer Hamann quietly published Anthropology of an American Girl through Vernacular Press, a small business she owned with her then husband. Hamann's dense, 600-page coming-of-age opus told the semiautobiographical story of a teenager's emotional and sexual awakening in 1970s Long Island. ''The book was so personal,'' says the author, 47. ''I was really nervous, and I think a part of me didn't want to be too public.''
No such luck. Not only did Hamann's novel end up becoming a cult sensation, selling more than 5,000 copies and earning glowing reviews everywhere from Romantic Times to Elle Girl, it's now being republished by Random House on a scale that Hamann never imagined possible in 2003. The new edition reflects some editorial changes — it now unfolds chronologically, for instance — all of which Hamann welcomed. ''To use a gardening analogy, it needed to be weeded, to have some of the brush stripped away,'' she says. ''It felt great to have an editor — I couldn't afford one before. And it was a wonderful opportunity to make the book more mainstream.'' And she's ready to face the masses? ''Yeah,'' Hamann says. ''It's a big leap, and I still feel exposed. But I hope people like it.''


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