New York Times bestselling author Jia Tolentino (Col ’09), dubbed a key voice of the millennial generation, ruminates plenty over excess, scams and bad actors in her debut book, Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, a collection of nine essays.
But Tolentino, a New Yorker staff writer, points to her own complicity in the modern-day life and lies that she covers in her book, too. Posting our convictions on social media has become easier than doing anything about them, she writes in one essay called “The I in the Internet.”
“I don’t know what to do with the fact that I myself continue to benefit from all this,” Tolentino writes. “That my career is possible in large part because of the way the internet collapses identity, opinion and action—and that I, as a writer whose work is mostly critical and often written in first person, have some inherent stake in justifying the dubious practice of spending all day trying to figure out what you think.”
In Trick Mirror, Tolentino blends reporting and research with her own experiences—as a 16-year-old reality television contestant, a lover of high-priced barre workouts or a frequent wedding guest who grapples with her own disinterest in marriage to her longtime partner, architect Andrew Daley (Arch ’07).
UVA doesn’t escape her gaze. Mentions are peppered throughout the book, and the University is the focus of her essay, “We Come From Old Virginia.” Here, she weaves together a meandering look at the discredited Rolling Stone magazine article about an alleged gang rape at a fraternity house, Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with his slave Sally Hemings, UVA history and the experiences of University students who have been sexually assaulted.
“I think that I tend to write about things that attract me and repel me in equal measure, right?” she told Vanity Fair in an interview about her book. “So, the things I criticize most sharply are often the things that I’m deeply drawn to.”