An evening with Jia Tolentino, staff writer for The New Yorker

Posted on September 28, 2021 by Abby May

Each year, in connection with Core 120: The Mindful Writer, the College invites a woman staff writer from The New Yorker magazine to come to campus. Students enrolled in the class have individual 12-week subscriptions to the magazine, which is one of the leading voices in American letters and arguably the gold standard for magazine journalism. The highlight of the course each year is the visit from a staff writer.

This year’s guest, Jia Tolentino, will speak in the Reahard Learning Gallery on Oct. 7 from 7:30 to 9 p.m., to talk about her career as a journalist, the world of The New Yorker and the writing life in general. “We feel very lucky that Jia will be with us this year,” says English and creative writing professor Carrie Brown. “She’s pretty much a rock star writer.” Rebecca Solnit, herself one of the most prominent female essayists writing today, calls Jia “The best young essayist at work in the United States,” and Kirkus Reviews describes her as a “key voice of her generation.” 

“Jia writes about big concepts,” says Carrie. “Locating in the particular something of relevance and importance in the larger sphere, and she’s incredibly versatile. She writes about movies and books and music, about politics and technology and the gig economy and trends and phenomenon of all kinds. She’s written about sororities and abortion and children’s literature and dogs. Her gaze as a writer is all over the place, and her prose is just sublime.”

“In addition to providing student writers with excellent models for writing about practically any subject, reading The New Yorker is an incredible education,” says Carrie. “We want our students to be informed about the complex world we inhabit, because knowledge is power and we want them to become fluent, forceful and elegant writers. Reading The New Yorker, even for 12-weeks, in addition to being vastly informative and entertaining, shows students what’s possible when your rhetorical skills are razor sharp.” 

Over the weeks of the course, students learn to identify the style and structure of individual pieces, from profiles to reviews to political and cultural commentary, and they write three pieces of their own, practicing a range of stylistic methods. “The New Yorker is a revelation for students,” says Carrie. “Many fall in love with the magazine and ask their families for a yearly subscription as a birthday gift. Handing out their copies of The New Yorker every week makes me happy!”

In the introduction to her book, “Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion,” a New York Times bestseller, Tolentino describes the essays as about “spheres of public imagination that have shaped my understanding of myself, of this country and of this era.” 

The essays also arose out of what she describes in the introduction as her confusion: “I wrote this book because I am always confused, because I can never be sure of anything, and because I am drawn to any mechanism that directs me away from that truth. Writing is either a way to shed my self-delusions or a way to develop them.” 

“I know Jia will be an inspiration to the students,” says Carrie. “Helping them see that writing is not just a craft or skill—much less a homework assignment—but a way to navigate the world, to think and feel our way through it.”