Review: Trick Mirror – Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino

44282599._sy475_Verdict: Sharp, rambling, wonderful.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Essay collection

Published by Fourth Estate, August 6th 2019

Find it on Goodreads.

We are living in the era of the self, in an era of malleable truth and widespread personal and political delusion. In these nine interlinked essays, Jia Tolentino, the New Yorker’s brightest young talent, explores her own coming of age in this warped and confusing landscape.

From the rise of the internet to her own appearance on an early reality TV show; from her experiences of ecstasy – both religious and chemical – to her uneasy engagement with our culture’s endless drive towards ‘self-optimisation’; from the phenomenon of the successful American scammer to her generation’s obsession with extravagant weddings, Jia Tolentino writes with style, humour and a fierce clarity about these strangest of times.

Following in the footsteps of American luminaries such as Susan Sontag, Joan Didion and Rebecca Solnit, yet with a voice and vision all her own, Jia Tolentino writes with a rare gift for elucidating nuance and complexity, coupled with a disarming warmth. This debut collection of her essays announces her exactly the sort of voice we need to hear from right now – and for many years to come.

This is an incredibly strong essay collection, brought down by a first essay that did not work for me and made picking this back up difficult for me. But once I finished that first essay, Jia Tolentino gives the reader an incredibly well-structured and presented collection. I know why this was one of my most anticipated reads for this year.

Jia Tolentino writes about many different things but always through a lense of feminism and internet culture – something I particularly adore as a feminist who is very much online. Her essays have a rambling quality that worked exceedingly well for me because I could trust her to pull her different strands of argument back together by the end of each essay. She combines the personal with the political, always underpinning her arguments with quotes and statistics in a highly effective way. This is the type of essay collection I adore.

My absolute favourite essay of this collection is about ecstacy – both the drug and the concept in religion. Tolentino reflects on her own religious upbringing, her relationship to drugs, her discovery of Houston’s hip hop scene, and her experience with god in a way that should not work for me (I am not particularly interested in any of these topics on their own) but that was just incredible. If you are only going to read one essay from this collection, make sure it is this one.

Content warning: discussions of rape culture and rape, bigotry, misogyny, racism.

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Fourth Estate in exchange for an honest review.

13 thoughts on “Review: Trick Mirror – Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino

  1. Yay, I’m so happy you finished it! #ARCsofshame has been conquered. Sort of. I still really want to read this, so thank you for the encouragement that the audio is great and that the first essay is not great but to stick with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I disagreed with her reading of Goffman – very much a me-thing. I am fascinated with Goffman and all things identity and couldn’t really appreciate the essay afterwards. The rest of the collection is really solid though!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! This collection looks so appealing, I’m glad you mostly loved it! One rough essay sounds worth the time for an otherwise solid set, but it is a bummer that it was the very first one, that can be hard to overcome.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really, really loved the collection. And that the first essay didn’t work is very much a me-thing. I totally disagreed with her reading of Goffman – and I understand how that wouldn’t put very many people off as he isn’t that widely-read as sociologists go.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, that’s interesting to know. I haven’t read Goffman, but it’s good to hear the perspective of someone who has. I will be interested to see how it turns out for me!


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