William Morrow ($14.99)
by Christian Corpora
Sara Benincasa is the eccentric, fearlessly honest aunt you didn’t know you needed. She has published three books, including a coming-of-age story about a middle school trip to Washington, DC, a comedic retelling of The Great Gatsby, and a painfully funny memoir detailing life with mental illness, Agorafabulous!. Her newest book, Real Artists Have Day Jobs (And Other Awesome Things They Don’t Teach You in School) will appeal to readers seeking humor, advice, companionship, or all of the above. She fills fifty-two chapters—“one for each week in the year, if you so desire”—with life advice as told through deeply personal narratives.
Benincasa has amassed an eclectic hodgepodge of life experiences. From teaching high school math to developing and pitching television shows to coping with depression and anxiety, she never shies away from revealing both broad and intimate details about herself. Benincasa makes herself bare for the benefit of others learning the freedom of self-acceptance. She describes her project as “a book of advice and ideas inspired by my thirty-five years of flaws, fuckups, failures, and occasional good choices.” Her self-deprecating humor is a delight to read as she draws the reader into a deeper place of self-reflection.
The title of the book also serves as that of the opening chapter, which Benincasa uses to encourage creators of all types—writers, painters, designers, musicians—to embrace their creative identity. While the title positions this collection as aimed at fellow artists, Benincasa’s advice applies to readers who pursue creativity on any scale; almost any type of reader will benefit from the challenge it provokes to own one’s identity.
What makes Real Artists Have Day Jobs such a welcome addition to the humor/memoir/lifestyle genre—a genre dominated by household names such as Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Mindy Kaling—is Benincasa’s relative obscurity. The reader doesn’t associate glitz and glamor with her name, and neither does she. Benincasa is truly someone who lives her own advice and wants us to as well, and she provides enjoyment and heartfelt encouragement with every turn of the page.