Here For It by R. Eric Thomas
Published by Ballantine Books ISBN 9780525621034
Hardcover, $26, 264 pages
I admit I had not heard of R. Eric Thomas or his humor column "Eric Reads the News" for ELLE.com. But so many people that I respect told me I must read his book of essays, Here For It or, How to Save Your Soul in America, and when Jenna Bush Hager picked it as one of her Read With Jenna selections, I knew I must buy it.
I'm so glad I did. Here For It had me chuckling throughout the entire book. Thomas burst on the scene when he referred to a photo of President Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nietro as "the new interracial male cast of Sex and the City." That Facebook post went viral and ELLE.com came calling with a job offer.
From his childhood obsession of the puppet Lady Elaine Fairchilde, whom Thomas calls "essentially a reality star" because she has a royal title and is "constantly in feuds with her brother" to knowing that his mother meant business when she put on her "Betty Grey suit" (so called because a woman named Betty Grey gave it to her mother) to confront a school principal over a racial incident, Thomas shares how his growing up black, gay, and Christian in a dangerous area of Baltimore, raised by parents who sacrificed by not buying any clothes for themselves for ten years so he could attend a private school, informed the man he grew up to be.
As one of the few black students in his school, he bonded with Electra, a black transfer student from New York City. They worked together in the school library, went to prom together, and Electra shared her deep obsession with Madonna, which Thomas did not necessarily share.
Thomas ends up at Columbia University, where he spies on people entering the Queer Student Alliance meetings "with all the attention and nuance of Gladys Kravitz, the nosy neighbor from Bewitched" afraid to go inside. When the Black Student Union informed him he was to mentor a younger student, the younger student ending up being more of a mentor to him.
After leaving Columbia and returning home to go to a local college, Thomas ends up in Philadelphia, living with a man who encourages him to join the gay softball league. I found this chapter very amusing, as Thomas knew nothing at all about softball, and he ended up having to take a remedial softball class for those who needed extra help.
There are poignant sections in the book as well, with Thomas trying to find love, bringing home a boyfriend to Thanksgiving dinner to meet his truly wonderful parents, his grave upset on election night 2016, and his wedding to a pastor, which put him in mind of himself in the Whitney Houston role in The Preacher's Wife.
I love a book that makes me feel something, and Here For It gives me a lot of that. From his howlingly funny way to look at the world, to his loneliness in the search for love and friendship, R. Eric Thomas is the kind of person you want have his cell phone number so that he can text you during the day with his thoughts and emojis. Jenna Bush Hager and Adriana Trigiani were right- I needed to read Here For It. I highly recommend it.
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