Book Review: Trick Mirror

The New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino navigates the intersecting labyrinths of the internet, pop culture and her own personal history in a sharp and funny collection of essays.

As a New Yorker staff writer and a former editor at feminist website Jezebel, Jia Tolentino has spent a decade at the coalface of online media and millennial culture. In her first collection of essays Tolentino emerges as a prescient observer and participant of the world wide web and how it shapes the way we consume, live and relate.

Throughout Trick Mirror Tolentino reacquaints us with characters and episodes familiar to anyone who has scrolled through a newsfeed (Fyre Festival’s Billy McFarland, outrage-stoking New York Times opinion columnists, women in the Trump administration who co-opt the language of feminism to shut down criticism) and works to make sense of them in a wider context than the online news cycle typically allows.

Rolling Stone’s retracted 2014 story about sexual assault at her alma mater the University of Virginia, for example, takes on new significance as Tolentino traces its effect on subsequent reporting in the #MeToo era, along with the campus’ long history of abuse and institutional apathy right back to its literal foundations under slave-owning president and founding father Thomas Jefferson.

Peppered with memoir, self-reflection, and numerous diversions into literature and popular culture, at times you might wonder where Tolentino is taking you. But there’s a very good reason Tolentino’s by-line is one of the more consistently readable and incisive to have emerged from the churn of the 2010s blogosphere: she knows the value of a good hard look in the mirror. At times Trick Mirror might inspire you to delete your social media apps for good, but as Tolentino writes, even those who avoid them must “still live in the world that this internet has created”.

Author: Jia Tolentino
Publisher: HarperCollins

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