By Edward Nawotka, Photos by Elena Mudd
Those who would most enjoy Internet darling Jia Tolentino’s first collection of essays, the raved-over Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, may be the most unlikely to find time to consume it: the social-media-obsessed millennials with shattered attention spans whose culture is so adroitly described in the book. To the idea that they’re all digital-first narcissistic illiterates, Trick offers a paper-and-ink middle finger.
Tolentino was born to parents from the Philippines and raised in Houston, where she graduated from Second Baptist School. She attended UVA, hopscotched to the Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan, then to grad school, eventually landing a post as a staff writer at the The New Yorker — all before age 30.
She’s been described as both the “Joan Didion of her generation” and “Susan Sontag reincarnated.” And the praise is deserved. Take “Ecstasy,” the most Houston-centric piece in the book. In it, she describes the unlikely alchemy of mega-church Christianity, adolescence, MDMA, and Houston’s hip-hop scene — with much of the action taking place in the Second Baptist parking lot.
The opening essay, “The I in the Internet,” provides a reflection on how the web was uniquely experienced by Tolentino’s generation. Others address the complexities of contemporary feminism; her time in Charlottesville and the town’s struggles with purported racism and rape culture; and being invited to 46 weddings over nine years — resulting in the death of her desire to get married.
Lots of people read Tolentino’s exemplary work online — she has 90,000 Twitter followers — but it’s better as a book. (Even if you’ll have to pay the equivalent of two months of Netflix.) $27, at Brazos Bookstore