The latest book of comic personal essays by Twitter sensation Oxford (Everything Is Perfect When You’re a Liar, 2013) consists of verbal snapshots of embarrassing scenes from her childhood and later life.
The author, who grew up in western Canada and now lives in Los Angeles, made a name for herself with her tweets, most recently when she elicited millions of responses after inviting readers to respond with stories of sexual abuse attached to the hashtag #NotOkay. She writes seriously and with pride about these responses in the final essay in the volume. The other essays, arranged in no discernible order, relate occasionally amusing stories from Oxford’s anxiety-ridden life. In one, she begs her parents to allow her to go to summer camp and finds that it doesn’t live up to her fantasies. In another, she attends day camp (“middle-class, working parent prison”) and is alarmed to find herself on the edge of a tornado and in danger of being pelted by baseball-sized hail. This anecdote segues abruptly into an account of her fears that her children will be endangered by earthquakes in Southern California. The essays about the author’s adulthood are generally less fully developed than the childhood ones. In one odd one, she sends her husband off on a date with a guy he believes has been flirting with him at the gym and then interrupts them when she senses something serious is happening. Several of the essays retrace familiar territory, like one in which she looks forward to spending a couple weeks working while her husband and kids are in Canada and instead wastes her time stuffing her face with chips and watching TV.
As might be expected from her Twitter account, Oxford has a gift for snarky one-liners and self-effacing humor, but her stories are weakly structured and often drift to their ends without resolution.