A great and bold writer at everyone's go-to for knowledge, "The New Yorker," Hilton Als brings his latest to the festive season -- "White Girls." The perfect title for a man that manages to bridge culture, race and gender in this new collection of carefully thought-provoking and tick-tock smart essays. But what else would you expect from one of the most opinionated people on the island?
"White Girls" brings together a series of what he calls white girls from, yes, Truman Capote to Louise Brooks, and Eminem to Malcolm X's mother. So he isn't just referring to Caucasian women; he is referring to figures throughout history that register with him to be the proverbial white girls. He flares his words and ideas wide, as only a "New Yorker" staff writer can do, and somehow ventures into territory seemingly unexplored previously. And he uses these guinea pigs, if you will, as a way to fine-comb literature, film, music, TV, race, gender, sexual orientation, and all kinds of culture. With some interesting insights.
Where do these characters or people find their voices, their craziness and all their very own panache and poise? Als isn't scared to dig in there and find out where he relates to it himself, never mind the reader. After all, Als does have that turn of phrase that you want to read again and again. Damn, so smart. In an interview with Salon, Als mentions the relevance of his book: "Look at something like 'American Horror Story: Coven,' which is all about, this season, a white woman's envy of black skin." What could be more interesting to explore, and Als goes there with real dash. Shouldn't politicians and the media be doing the same, but just a little more with a little more poise?
Als wrote "The Women" in 1996, and the book focused on his mother, who raised the young Hilton Als in Brooklyn. This book, an exploration of identity, intelligently manages to weave ethnicity, gender and sexuality in a way that was ever so perfect for the ages and remains a great read. With his latest he says, "I wanted to say that as long as you tell the emotional truth, that's what we're really looking at." And the collection comes across as exactly that, a moment of truth that you want to down like a red-hot tequila.
by Hilton Als