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Book Review: “Trick Mirror”

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion

Jia Tolentino

Hardcover, 303 pages

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

Publisher: Random House

Genre: Essays, Memoir

“Trick Mirror” is a set of essays unlike any I have read before. Not to bash any other essayists I have read, but Jia Tolentino is considerably younger than almost all of them. At 30 years old, Tolentino has written essays on subjects which are incredibly important for society in 2019. From the unpredictable power of the internet to the problem of campus rape and how a religious experience can feel a lot like being on drugs, Tolentino has taken subjects relevant to new and up-and-coming American adults and written about them with wit, insight and vulnerability.

A staff writer for The New Yorker, Tolentino already had a history of impressive writing before her debut was published. She has also written for The Hairpin and Jezebel, covering everything from music, book and TV reviews to reports on feminism, race and American society as a whole. An impressive history, certainly, and “Trick Mirror” exhibits the best of Tolentino’s skills.

If you could not already tell, I loved this book and every essay in it. “Trick Mirror” covered topics I am constantly, painfully aware of while growing into adulthood in 21st century America.

While her essays are full of information, Tolentino offers stories from her personal life as well. She starred in a season of “Girls v. Boys,” an early reality TV show in the 2000s, and uses her experiences to discuss what happens to human identity when the world is watching. Now, with social media, the world is watching your every move even if you are not a TV star, which is the topic of the first essay, “The I in the Internet.”

Tolentino’s theme of identity does not stop there. In her essays “Always Be Optimizing,” “Pure Heroines” and “The Cult of the Difficult Woman,” what it means to be a woman in society takes center stage. Whether through rigorous yoga classes or perfectly imperfect children’s book characters, Tolentino casts a sharp eye over what the world tells women to be. In the concluding essay, “I Thee Dread,” Tolentino discusses her aversion to marriage despite having a long-term partner. It is not the partner she has a problem with, but rather the societal concept of marriage and how it treats men and women.

I saw myself in Tolentino’s childhood self in “Ecstasy,” as she describes growing up in the church and trying to make sense of the world outside of the church walls. Figuring out her place in religion as she moves into adulthood is a reminder of where I and many of my friends are at this collegiate point in our lives.

For anyone interested in American culture, especially as it affects Millennials and Generation Z, I cannot recommend “Trick Mirror” enough. Tolentino is a voice of young America which deserves to be heard.

Paige Holmes is a senior journalism major from Topeka, KS. Reading is her favorite thing to do because it teaches one how to think, imagine and live. Paige believes there is no better way to learn something or be entertained than by reading a book. Her favorite genre of books is fantasy/thriller and her favorite book is ‘Opening Moves’ by Steven James.

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