We recently profiled Jia Tolentino, the Houston-raised New Yorker staff writer who just published her debut book. Titled Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, the nine-essay collection deconstructs Sweetgreen, reality television, Houston megachurches, and more; reviews have almost universally praised the book, describing its author as "the Joan Didion of our time."
Yet apart from these articles exists another, equally prevalent genre of coverage. A Grubstreet food diary chronicles Tolentino's near-erotic love of spicy rigatoni, Fireball, and karaoke. Into the Gloss revealed her skincare routine. Jezebel profiled Luna, her dog. It's all a lot to keep track of, which is why we're thankful Man Repeller published an index to help readers navigate the apocalyptic media blitz.
This Friday, August 16, Tolentino makes a stop here in Houston on an abbreviated book tour, so we figured we'd pile on another blog post. Read on for some Houston-specific outtakes from our June conversation with the author.
Jia Tolentino is a big fan of Bryan Washington's Houston-set story collection, Lot:
These are the first two books I’ve read in 2019 & I am a WRECK pic.twitter.com/QzuoQnciBm— Jia Tolentino (@jiatolentino) January 7, 2019
"I loved Lot, and I think he's so brilliant. Really I'm so proud that the first real national-stage literary fiction about Houston was written by a black queer dude—I found that really moving, and really not something I would've expected from my experience of Texas."
Her love of Whataburger is deep and abiding:
Whataburger parking lots are the site of 95% of teen deviancy in TX and their late night taquitos raised me as their own son— Jia Tolentino (@jiatolentino) August 4, 2015
"I feel a lot of fondness about the shady high school circuit I used to make around Richmond to Westheimer up from where Second Baptist is. It's like the Whataburger where everyone drank in the parking lot, and the liquor store that would not check IDs. I haven't done that loop in literally a million years, but I feel a fondness."
For her, Shipley's stirs a special kind of feeling:
"The sheer joy of going to Shipley's in the morning and getting a 50-cent, hot donut is just unmatched. There's a kolache shop in Brooklyn near me and it's run by Texans, and it's really good, but the kolaches are, like, $9. When I'm in Texas, I'm always stuffing my face with Christy's or whatever. Also, of course: gotta have some real queso."
The Tolentinos have frequented the same Korean place for years:
"My family always goes to Seoul Garden. There's this waitress named Lee that we're obsessed with—she's like an auxiliary arm of the family."
Most of all, she loves Montrose, her old neighborhood:
PSA anyone in Houston this wkend: go 2 Tierra Caliente taco truck next 2 West Alabama Ice House, I PERSONALLY PROMISE IT WILL CHANGE UR LIFE— Jia Tolentino (@jiatolentino) February 3, 2017
"I used to live like two blocks away from West Alabama Ice House on Colquitt. I would walk to Tierra Caliente every day and get four al pastor tacos with my dog. It became a routine: I would go to the ice house, get a beer, sit on the picnic table, watch the game, eat some tacos, walk home. Living next to the Menil was also absolute heaven. Every time I'm home, I do that little circle again."
Jia Tolentino reads from her essay collection, Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, on Friday, August 16 at Brazos Bookstore. More info here.