We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.: Essays by Samantha Irby
Published by Vintage
Publication date: May 30, 2017
Genres: Essays, Humor, Memoir, Non-fiction
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Samantha Irby is a 36-year-old, black, lesbian living in Chicago. She also grew up broke-ass poor—all of which she lets you know from the get-go in her essay collection We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. But her biographical details are the least interesting thing about her. What really matters is that she is wildly funny, even as I cringed at how she has NO filter about anything, including her own body and all its inherent problems and deficiencies. Squeamish TMI aside, this book made me laugh harder than almost anything I’ve read in a long time.
Irby doesn’t save her best material for last. We Are Never Meeting is dedicated to Klonopin. The opening essay is her application to be on the Bachelorette show, where she answers the questions honestly, admitting that she heard about their contestant search because she does most of her reading in the grocery checkout lane. When asked if she drinks alcoholic beverages her answer is: DO I.
Like many very funny people, Irby’s humor is alchemized from a life of pain. Her father was abusive before largely disappearing from her life. She has an essay about her annoyance at being the only available person in her family to dispose of his ashes after he finally dies. This antipathy is likely due in part to his mistreatment of her mother when she was in the advanced stages of multiple sclerosis. Irby was fifteen at the time and relays
I have to stop and tell you that this is not a place I revisit often in my mind. Of everything, of all the sad things and disappointing things and hurtful things, this is the place in my head that hurts most to go to.
That Irby can take severe family trauma and poverty and make them humorous without diminishing their seriousness is a gift not many have. In the same way, she expands the singularity of her experiences into those that are relatable to everyone. This is her take on how she feels about significant others saying they “need to talk”
I’m not doing any of that. You’d have to trick me into a talk. If I was lucky enough to get a warning text, you would never see me again in your life. That is not a joke. The minute you say, “Hey, Irby, we need to have a talk later,” you can guarantee that my phone number will be changed by the end of the business day. Send me a follow-up email to reiterate that a conversation must absolutely take place and I will be witness protection by the end of the week.
She does this throughout We Are Never Meeting—slides from deeply personal to universal. It all adds up to achingly buoyant reading that shouts off the page. A caveat: she uses language that is brutally vulgar and discusses things that would make drunk frat boys blush so be warned. If you can accept that than Samantha Irby is a new voice you can trust to entertain while speaking nothing but the truth.
Backlist Beauty: Furiously Happy is another option if you want more reading from women who can find the humor in a difficult life.
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