Tuesday, September 24, 2013

You ARE Pretty Enough, Actually

I have been reading A LOT lately, plowing through several memoirs lately and last week I enjoyed reading Jennifer Tress's new memoir You're Not Pretty Enough. I found her voice to be funny and engaging and many of her stories very relatable, although I have to give you one important caveat. I feel the book's title is a little misleading.

I expected a story about a girl who wasn't very pretty and how she overcame body image issues. There is none of that in this book and throughout the memoir there is ample evidence that Jennifer Tress was and still is very pretty. Which is fine, I mean jeez, we can't shame someone for being pretty. That would be insane, although that picture of her in middle school with the horrible 80s mullet hair (totally understand that, Jennifer. I had it too in seventh grade) is definitely not, umm, flattering. So while I'm perfectly ok with the author being pretty, I just feel that the book's cover and title is misleading. The title, in fact, comes from something Tress's ex-husband said and this was coming from a dude who looked like Ray Romano, and was truly not a central theme of the book.

You're Not Pretty Enough spans pretty much Tress's whole life up until now and as with memoirs that cover so much ground, I tended to enjoy the stories about when she was younger better than the stories about her adult life, especially her life after her divorce. That's just personal preference though and although this memoir covers thirty-plus years, I'd still categorize it as a classic "coming of age" story. It just takes some of us thirty plus years to grow up. Tress and I are in the same boat on that one, which is why I found this memoir so relatable, except the part where she had big hair and loved Bon Jovi, although those stories were hilarious. I also liked her babysitting stories and I loved the whole section about her first marriage and divorce. Tress married way too young and she married a total jackass, but somehow the sad story of their breakup ends up coming off as really, really funny.

I think what I really liked about this book was that it covered some very serious material - divorce, infidelity, a truly terrifying sexual assault and its aftermath, failed relationships and struggling relationships, but it never once came off as a depressing pity party. In fact, I found it uplifting and sincerely entertaining. I hope that Jennifer Tress is hard at work on a follow up.

Oh, and one last thing. I am getting really sick of publishing companies saying that books are like other books which are coincidentally huge best sellers. This book is compared to Jenny Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened and Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. No. NO and NO. It's nothing like either one of those books. In fact, I think it bears more similarity to my book, at least in tone, though definitely not in its subject. Read this book for its own merits and not because you think it might be like Lawson or Strayed, because it isn't.

Right now, I'm reading Kate Christensen's Blue Plate Special. I confess that I am mostly reading this book because a significant part of it takes place at one of the high schools I attended and because Christensen's family were anthroposophists and followed the teachings of Rudolph Steiner. I have attended and worked at and Little Lawns has also attended a Waldorf school (though not now, but long story) and I have an admitted bias. A few weeks ago an old friend of mine sent me an article about this memoir wherein Christensen writes about rampant sexual abuse of minors by teachers at the school. In the book she doesn't name the teacher who molested her, but the article did and it turned out that he was the father of one of my classmates who was a year older than me. Wow. I can honestly say that when I attended Green Meadow Waldorf School, ten years after Christensen, that nothing like this was going on. At least not that I knew about. So my history with the school and my own experiences there, plus knowing the son of the man who abused her, has made this a pretty crazy read so far and I'm not even halfway through. I'll give you a review once I'm done.

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