A fearless, “funny, poignant, and super-smart” (Ms. magazine) essay collection about race, justice, and the limits of good intentions.
In this “inspiring, determined work of personal narrative and cultural criticism” (Saeed Jones, author of How We Fight for Our Lives), essayist and award-winning voice actor Tajja Isen explores the absurdity of living in a world that has grown fluent in the language of social justice but doesn’t always follow through.
These nine daring essays explore the sometimes troubling and often awkward nature of that discord. Some of My Best Friends takes on subjects including the cartoon industry’s pivot away from colorblind casting, the pursuit of diverse representation in the literary world, the law’s refusal to see inequality, and the cozy fictions of nationalism. Throughout, Isen “shows a bracing willingness to tackle sensitive issues that others often sweep under a rug” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
In the spirit of Zadie Smith, Cathy Park Hong, and Jia Tolentino, Isen interlaces cultural criticism with her lived experience to explore the gaps between what we say and what we do, what we do and what we value, what we value and what we demand.
Tajja Isen’s first book, Some of My Best Friends, was named a best book of the year by outlets such Electric Literature, The Globe and Mali (Toronto), and more. The former editor-in-chief of Catapult Magazine, she has also edited for The Walrus and Electric Literature, and she coedited the essay anthology The World as We Knew It: Dispatches from a Changing Climate. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Time, BuzzFeed News, and numerous other publications. Also a voice actor, Isen can be heard on such animated shows as Atomic Betty, The Berenstain Bears, Super Why!, Go Dog Go, Jane and the Dragon, and many others. Learn more at TajjaIsen.com.
Publisher: Atria/One Signal Publishers (April 19, 2022)
“Funny, poignant and super-smart in all the ways.” —Ms. Magazine
“Tajja Isen [is] a multihyphenate talent...with a delicious knack for wordplay and language... Isen’s original perspective and clever language that will win over readers.” —BookPage
“Brilliant .... [Isen] examines racism through multiple lenses with the dexterity of a compound microscope.”—Anomaly
“Relevant…covers loaded topics in a light-hearted way.” —USA Today
“[A] stellar debut collection...Some of My Best Friends shows a bracing willingness to tackle sensitive issues that others often sweep under a rug.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Isen scrutinizes society’s attempts to bandage over such issues as race and gender inequality in her powerful debut. Isen’s voice is both wry and sensitive as she fearlessly lays out the limits of talk in solving inequality; fans of sharp cultural criticism, take note." —Publishers Weekly
“Beautifully written, wildly funny, and whip smart, the essays in Some of My Best Friends are among the best I've ever read. Tajja Isen is unafraid to ask deep questions and embrace their messy answers. She's one hell of a writer.” —Kristen Arnett, New York Times bestselling author of Mostly Dead Things and With Teeth
“Isen understands that our shared future demands we expose and call out wasted time, hollow gestures, and empty words. Some of My Best Friends is an inspiring, determined work of personal narrative and cultural criticism.” —Saeed Jones, author of How We Fight for Our Lives
“The essays in this book dazzle stylistically, thrill intellectually and flip the finger to the many ways North America pretends to talk about racial experiences. Isen is a provocateur of the first order. Her wit and wisdom capture the current moment and soar above it.” —Kamal Al-Solaylee, author of Return and Brown
“Sure-footed and illuminating, Some of My Best Friends brilliantly lays bare the lies that accompany some of the most insidious aspects of racism— lip service, pandering, and plausible deniability—and offers a bracing inoculation.” —Jess Zimmerman, author of Women and Other Monsters