Author: R. Eric Thomas
Summary: This book was a joy to read, managing to be relatable and informative, humorous and heartfelt all at once.
I picked this up expecting a celebrity memoir, because the internet told me it would be hilarious and I would love it. The internet was right and I was wrong. This turned out to feel less like a memoir and more like an essay collection (albeit one impressively organized both thematically and in chronological order). Since that’s a genre I prefer, I was thrilled. It was, as the description promised me, both “hysterical and heartfelt”, although I would say it was both nearly always, not “by turns”. And I did love it. I loved everything about it.
I’m surprised that I wasn’t bothered by the informal tone of this book, which included (common, intentional) misspellings, slang, and lots of italics and exclamations for emphasis. I really enjoy the podcast My Favorite Murder and I still hated that their book was written in their informal, conversational, podcasting tone. I think the important difference was that Thomas is following writing conventions. They may be Twitter writing conventions, but they are still writing conventions I’m familiar with. The My Favorite Murder book, by contrast, was using conventions from spoken English in writing and I was not here for it.
I actually would list the tone of this book as one of my favorite things about it. In addition to having a tone that felt just right for Twitter, this book showed how much the author is immersed in internet culture. I loved that the cultural touchstones he references felt so current and comfortably familiar to me. I also enjoyed how varied his cultural references were and his impressive ability to describe how particular songs make him feel. The tone was surprisingly upbeat, even when the author was discussing discrimination he’d faced or his existential anxiety. The author mentioned that he realized pretty young that he’d like his writing to make people happy. This book accomplished that for me. Every moment of reading it brought me joy. I kept wanting to highlight entire paragraphs to save.
This book also accomplished something I love to find in a memoir, by showing me both points of commonality and points of difference between my experiences and the author’s. Some, although not all, of his descriptions of feeling anxious resonated with me. At other times, he managed to describe a feeling that I’ve had better than I could describe it. But, of course, I also learned a lot from hearing about the way being a gay, Black, Christian man have influenced his life experiences. I can’t recommend this highly enough.