New York Times bestselling Author Jia Tolentino visits campus virtually

by Zach McGuckin | Staff Writer

Jia Tolentino shares advice about pursuing a career as a writer. Headshot provided by Jia Tolentino

Jia Tolentino, author of “Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion,” visited campus via Zoom to read a portion of her essay “Ecstasy” and answer questions, allowing students and professors to delve deep into the themes of her work and her creative process.

“Ecstasy” has been taught in the English department since 2015. The essay discusses Tolentino leaving the church as a teenager and beginning to explore drug culture in Houston, her hometown. “There was no way I was going to stay in this ultra-conservative, Southern Baptist faith community,” Tolentino said.

The essay has a description of her childhood church that draws some parallels to the world of George Orwell’s “1984.”

“Television screens were installed all over campus, and the senatorial face of our pastor bobbed around on each one, preaching to nobody in particular,” she writes.

Halfway through the essay, Tolentino transitions into discussing the Houston hip-hop scene. She goes into its backstory, and then describes how the scene influenced her decision to leave the church.

“I’m always very conscious that anything I’m writing I’m like the 7000th person to talk about it,” Tolentino said. “Generally, with the research process, I’m so aware of being unoriginal, so if we take that as a precondition, the least we can do is be as rooted in other people’s hard work as we can be.”

She also talked about finding a diverse grouping of sources. “With any topic I try to go as far back in time as I can and as far across as many disciplines as I can,” she said.

Tolentino’s essay collection “Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion” is on sale now.