Comedian and actress Jenny Slate said so herself, she “looked inside her brain and found a book” — which seems accurate when reading her debut memoir, Little Weirds. The title isn’t far off from what’s inside: imaginative, funny, and melancholic personal essays.
It’s difficult to pinpoint what category this book falls into, ranging from real accounts of her life — such as her divorce — to dream-like abstractions of how she sees the world: “The planet itself saw us. I saw it see us, I think. I think it saw us while we were doing exactly what we wanted, and then it was happy.” She gives us glimpses into her childhood, growing up in a haunted house, and recounts her happiest and darkest dreams. On whatever topic she decides to illustrate who she is, it is remarkably inviting and raw.
In the comedy world, Slate’s reputation is that of a quirky Jewish woman who puts on silly voices and plays comical roles. But her authorship showcases a much deeper side, expressing feelings of immense loneliness and devoting multiple pieces to death. In fact, Slate “dies” multiple times in the book, where she details her final moments on Earth: “I was a pro at dying. I bore it with dignity and grace and light jokes. The jokes were clear and weightless. They did not drag anyone into my pain. Nobody got a whiff of anything.”
Some of her pieces, like “The Code of Hammurabi,” have feminist underpinnings, analyzing patriarchy, misogyny, and the ways our country has made some wrong turns. However, Slate doesn’t try to preach. Rather, she questions, expresses hope, and even admits the unconscious part she plays in the society she disdains: “Would Teddy Roosevelt be a feminist? Would he like me or think I am a wimp? Were the Kennedys just really gross, like, with women? Why are so many men so gross but still we say that they are heroes?” But, even in the more serious pieces, she manages to write in a refreshingly playful and personable tone.
Slate poignantly communicates her breadth of opinions on things as small as geraniums, to larger-than-life concepts like the afterlife, and she delivers them with a unique voice and perspective. Refreshing and unpredictable, Little Weirds invites you into Slate’s imaginative mind.
Michelle Zaurov is Jewish Book Council’s program associate. She graduated from Binghamton University in New York, where she studied English and literature. She has worked as a journalist writing for the Home Reporter, a local Brooklyn publication. She enjoys reading realistic fiction and fantasy novels, especially with a strong female lead.