One of the first American writers to become internet famous, R. Eric Thomas’ columns in Elle have helped to create and shape a pop culture experience familiar to many: witty examinations of politics and celebrity online as a lens on the writer and reader alike, with social media serving as an extension of both the writer’s brand and his conversation with the reader.
Here For It or, How to Save Your Soul in America, Thomas’s debut memoir, demonstrates with charm, compassion, and characteristic self-deprecation that being an open book can be a useful way to hide one’s pain from the public eye.
Thomas was raised by devoted, hard-working parents determined to give their children the best even if the best was not to be found in their struggling Baltimore neighborhood; what this meant for Thomas was attending a private school at which he was one of the only non-white students; high school graduation in turn meant college, a growing sense of his gay identity, and a constant struggle to determine who he was, really.
Writing, storytelling with The Moth, and a series of jobs, loves, and losses that will seem familiar to anyone who was once a young adult eventually lead to that rarest of events: a Facebook post that turns into one of the magazine industry’s most coveted positions.
Thomas’s candor is disarming and never less than affable — all the more impressive given that he does not shy away from issues of race, justice, homophobia, and other issues that Americans often prefer to leave unmentioned. I laughed a lot while reading Here For It. I also had to reach for a tissue more than once.