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Tell Me I'm an Artist

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A portrait of the artist as a work-in-progress (Sharma Shields), this hilarious and incisive coming-of-age novel about an art student from a poor family struggling to find her place in a new social class of rich, well-connected peers is perfect for fans of Elif Batuman's The Idiot and Weike Wang's Chemistry At her San Francisco art school, Joey enrolls in a film electiv A portrait of the artist as a work-in-progress (Sharma Shields), this hilarious and incisive coming-of-age novel about an art student from a poor family struggling to find her place in a new social class of rich, well-connected peers is perfect for fans of Elif Batuman's The Idiot and Weike Wang's Chemistry At her San Francisco art school, Joey enrolls in a film elective that requires her to complete what seems like a straightforward assignment: create a self-portrait. Joey inexplicably decides to remake Wes Anderson's Rushmore despite having never seen the movie. As Tell Me I'm An Artist unfolds over the course of the semester, the assignment hangs over her as she struggles to exist in a well-heeled world that is hugely different from any she has known. Miles away, Joey's sister goes missing, leaving her toddler with their mother, who in turn suggests that Joey might be the selfish one for pursuing her dreams. Meanwhile, her only friend at school, the enigmatic Suz, makes meaningful, appealing art, a product of Suz's own singular drive and talent as well as decades of careful nurturing by wealthy, sophisticated parents. A masterful novel from an author known for her candid and searching prose, Tell Me I'm An Artist examines the invisible divide created by class and privilege, ruminates on the shame that follows choosing a path that has not been laid out for you, and interrogates what makes someone an artist at all.


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A portrait of the artist as a work-in-progress (Sharma Shields), this hilarious and incisive coming-of-age novel about an art student from a poor family struggling to find her place in a new social class of rich, well-connected peers is perfect for fans of Elif Batuman's The Idiot and Weike Wang's Chemistry At her San Francisco art school, Joey enrolls in a film electiv A portrait of the artist as a work-in-progress (Sharma Shields), this hilarious and incisive coming-of-age novel about an art student from a poor family struggling to find her place in a new social class of rich, well-connected peers is perfect for fans of Elif Batuman's The Idiot and Weike Wang's Chemistry At her San Francisco art school, Joey enrolls in a film elective that requires her to complete what seems like a straightforward assignment: create a self-portrait. Joey inexplicably decides to remake Wes Anderson's Rushmore despite having never seen the movie. As Tell Me I'm An Artist unfolds over the course of the semester, the assignment hangs over her as she struggles to exist in a well-heeled world that is hugely different from any she has known. Miles away, Joey's sister goes missing, leaving her toddler with their mother, who in turn suggests that Joey might be the selfish one for pursuing her dreams. Meanwhile, her only friend at school, the enigmatic Suz, makes meaningful, appealing art, a product of Suz's own singular drive and talent as well as decades of careful nurturing by wealthy, sophisticated parents. A masterful novel from an author known for her candid and searching prose, Tell Me I'm An Artist examines the invisible divide created by class and privilege, ruminates on the shame that follows choosing a path that has not been laid out for you, and interrogates what makes someone an artist at all.

30 review for Tell Me I'm an Artist

  1. 5 out of 5

    luce (currently recovering from a hiatus)

    3 ½ stars Restrained yet acutely realistic, Tell Me I’m An Artist presents its readers with the unfinished portrait of an artist as a young woman. Throughout the course of this novel, we read of the trials and tribulations of an art school student Joey, who attempts to reconcile herself with a new existence in San Francisco. She struggles to navigate her new surroundings and often feels alienated by the wealth and stability her peers seem to enjoy. Joey enrols in a film elective and is given an a 3 ½ stars Restrained yet acutely realistic, Tell Me I’m An Artist presents its readers with the unfinished portrait of an artist as a young woman. Throughout the course of this novel, we read of the trials and tribulations of an art school student Joey, who attempts to reconcile herself with a new existence in San Francisco. She struggles to navigate her new surroundings and often feels alienated by the wealth and stability her peers seem to enjoy. Joey enrols in a film elective and is given an assignment that despite its seeming simplicity sees her moored in procrastination. As she struggles with her initial conceit, that of remaking Wes Anderson’s 'Rushmore' despite having never seen it and relying only on other people’s recollections of it, she adopts a self-doubting mindset, and not only does she begin to doubt her portrait idea but her identity as an artist. Amidst her internal confusion Joey also has external worries pressing on her: her sister, an addict with a long history of erratic behavior, has gone MIA and left her toddler with their mother who in turn blames Joey for not helping more. Joey oscillates between feeling guilty and resentful of her mother and sister, and as she glimpses the lifestyles of her peers, well, she becomes all the more aware of how different her situation is. Her loneliness sees her seeking solace in her friendship with Suz, who seems much more sophisticated and put-together than her. Yet Suz soon reveals herself to be far less enthusiastic about their friendship. Joey’s finances also preoccupy her, especially when her family asks her for bailouts. Tell Me I’m an Artist interrogates the meaning of art, artistry, creativity and authenticity as well as questions the ways in which we attribute meaning or value to our and other people’s art. In doing so the novel offers a lot of food for thought. I appreciate Joey’s narration, which was full of acts of introspection, navel-gazing, and self-doubting, and permeated by longing and disorientation. Joey’s morphing anxieties and desires are articulated in razor-sharp prose that captures with clarity her various moods and states of mind. She may not be likeable but her likability is certainly not the point of this novel. Chelsea Martin allows her to be thorny yet occasionally pathetic, solipsistic yet perspective. Her observations of the people and world around her as well as her reflections on art, academia, and privilege all resonated with me. In rendering Joey’s unease, ennui, and disenchantment Martin demonstrates a keen eye for these difficult-to-pin-down feelings and emotions. We see how Joey’s sense of self-worth affects her art and her self-belief, leading her to procrastinate. The more she worries and agonizes over this portrait, the less she wants to do it. Personally, I found her idea somewhat interesting but as she oscillates between various methods or ways of going about it, I found myself kind of bored by it (which was probably intentional). I would have liked more from the secondary characters, as they seemed kind of hazy around the edges in terms of characterisation. In reading about Suz (whom i disliked given that she disses radiohead fairly early on in the book) I found myself wishing for Selin and Svetlana's friendship in The Idiot and Either/Or. Speaking of Batuman, Tell Me I’m an Artist will definitely appeal to fans of hers. While Martin’s novel lacks Batuman’s deadpan humor it definitely has a similar vibe, especially if we consider the way both these authors have a penchant for describing and detailing the minutiae of their narrator’s day-to-day lives. The settings too are also similar as we follow young women trying to navigate the world of academia and questioning the functions of art, language, etc. All in all, I found this novel to make for a really immersive reading experience. I liked the atmosphere, the unadorned writing (we even get pages with joey’s google searches), and the themes that are at play in it and I look forward to whatever Martin publishes next. If you are a fan of character studies and/or books focused on young women searching for something, even themselves, and attempting to understand themselves and their role in the world, such as Lucy & Wish Me Something, definitely add this to your tbr pile. I could also see this debut to readers who look for books exploring female creativity, such as Writers & Lovers by Lily King, We Play Ourselves by Jen Silverman, and Self-Portrait with Boy by Rachel Lyon.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook….read by Devon Sorvari ….7 hours and 15 minutes Chelsea Martin is an author and a comic illustrator. This is her first novel. It caught my eye-and-interest because it takes place in San Francisco in an Art School. ….[I have artist friends who attended “Academy of the Art University” in San Francisco years ago]— my husband is an artist, and both of our two adult daughters are artists. I’m surrounded by talented successful artists (none in our family are ‘starving’ in any shape or form Audiobook….read by Devon Sorvari ….7 hours and 15 minutes Chelsea Martin is an author and a comic illustrator. This is her first novel. It caught my eye-and-interest because it takes place in San Francisco in an Art School. ….[I have artist friends who attended “Academy of the Art University” in San Francisco years ago]— my husband is an artist, and both of our two adult daughters are artists. I’m surrounded by talented successful artists (none in our family are ‘starving’ in any shape or form) … I’m very thankful for this. Plus, recently we purchased a few — gorgeous—Art pieces since remodeling our house this past year from Goodreads member/New York Artist: Jennifer…. [beautiful collage prints from [nestedmoon.com] — So… I thought it might be intriguing to read this book….an inside modern day look at the blood, sweat, and tears of ‘becoming’ an artist’ in this crazy mixed up world we are all now living in. I liked the premises about a young girl finding her way into the art world. TELL HER SHE IS AN ARTIST!!!! I was curious to see where the book might go.. and be entertained at the same time. Joey Barry is financially struggling as an art student at an unnamed film school in San Francisco. Her sister, Jenny, living in Lodi, California, is a struggling mother of a small child with a a drug ( crack) addiction. Jenny’s struggles are not far from Joey’s mind. Both sisters grew up with an abusive mother … and some of the best parts of this novel is when their - sister- relationship is at the forefront. Joey feels guilty - on top of insecure with her artistic creative desires and abilities- for trying to get ahead - away from her mother and sister in Lodi (who seem to be constantly pulling her back). Also… A question lingers for Joey… ….How does she paint a portrait (her assignment for the semester), of an artist when she isn’t even sure what art is. Joey feels the pressure. Is she good enough? Her new friend, Suz has a much more privileged and supported life than Joey. The contrast tests Joey’s confidence. Paying her rent, paying for art supplies, and eating are daily financial concerns —the very opposite from Suz. None of Joey’s classmates seem to have any of the financial worries that she does. There is a constant push and pull inner struggle between Joey’s independent dreams and the weight of her family. Joey chose to remake the classic Wes Anderson 1998 film, ‘Rushmore’ .. a movie with Bill Murray … [a movie she had never seen]… to fulfill her school assignment. The themes in ‘Rushmore’ resonated with Joey. Max, the protagonist in the film, was also a struggling artist. (he also needed loans and scholarships in order to attend an elite art school)….in an environment where other students were financially comforted by their families. There was a lot of struggling going on — Joey wanted to create — make something for herself. She was filled self-doubt not only about her artistic capabilities- but about her place in the world-coming from the messed up poor family she is connected with. The book is not perfect - but it does have strong and tender moments … I especially liked the way superficiality was explored against personal real problems. “Tell Me I’m An Artist”, has heart, art, family exploration, youth-coming-of-age struggles, and portrays class division realities intimately. The wonderful comic/tragic dialogue gives this debut novel its heartbeat. 3.5 rating up.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tao

    "What was an artist but someone who wanted to be understood but didn't know how to communicate normally?" "What was an artist but someone who wanted to be understood but didn't know how to communicate normally?"

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    I loved this book! TELL ME I’M AN ARTIST by Chelsea Martin is an amazing novel! It’s about Joey, who’s trying to navigate her new life at a San Francisco art school. In her film class she’s assigned to make a self-portrait and decides to remake the movie Rushmore despite never seeing the movie. I loved the art school setting as Joey has to give and receive critiques on her work, try to find a job and balance school work with friendships. While she procrastinates making her film project the anxio I loved this book! TELL ME I’M AN ARTIST by Chelsea Martin is an amazing novel! It’s about Joey, who’s trying to navigate her new life at a San Francisco art school. In her film class she’s assigned to make a self-portrait and decides to remake the movie Rushmore despite never seeing the movie. I loved the art school setting as Joey has to give and receive critiques on her work, try to find a job and balance school work with friendships. While she procrastinates making her film project the anxious feeling of whether she’ll finish it on time is palpable. I loved the writing style which includes little snippets of diary like entries and the first person narration worked perfectly to get into Joey’s headspace. This is a fabulous coming of age story of a creative mind. I found it extremely relatable as Joey tries to make sense of Rushmore since I’ve never seen the movie either. There were some really witty and funny parts in this book and it made me reminisce on my time in art classes. I rarely stay up late to finish a book but I did with this one! I loved it from start to finish! It’s five stars for me! . Thank you to Soft Skull Press for my advance reading copy!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Vincent Scarpa

    “Someone once told me, though I wasn’t sure why they thought this, or maybe I misunderstood, or maybe it was something I made up in a dream, but anyway: When you went to sleep your brain shut down and the cells that made you who you were got put back together in a different way and in the morning you were someone else and the subconscious of your new brain had to quickly assess its surroundings and come up with some plausible story for who you were and why you were there and what you’d been thro “Someone once told me, though I wasn’t sure why they thought this, or maybe I misunderstood, or maybe it was something I made up in a dream, but anyway: When you went to sleep your brain shut down and the cells that made you who you were got put back together in a different way and in the morning you were someone else and the subconscious of your new brain had to quickly assess its surroundings and come up with some plausible story for who you were and why you were there and what you’d been through without your conscious self realizing that the subconscious mind was inventing a reality. And this happened to every person in the whole world. Every day. And that made a lot of sense given that I did not know what the fuck was going on and that every morning I was surprised that I still didn’t know what the fuck to do.” I’ve read all of Chelsea’s books, and I always want to be living in a world wherein she’s producing literature. Thank you, Chelsea Martin.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cash_kaiser

    Dumb sex, dumb art, and one girl just trying to fucking live it all up. It’s an art school story that will give you pain and joy. A story of family, class, and someone trying to get away. I experienced a range of emotions when I read this book. Mostly related to the Jo’s struggles with family, but also felt like I was learning to empathize with parts of her family’s lives. Most of it, I had never experienced in my own real life. Parts made me anxious. Some of the narrative about art school was ve Dumb sex, dumb art, and one girl just trying to fucking live it all up. It’s an art school story that will give you pain and joy. A story of family, class, and someone trying to get away. I experienced a range of emotions when I read this book. Mostly related to the Jo’s struggles with family, but also felt like I was learning to empathize with parts of her family’s lives. Most of it, I had never experienced in my own real life. Parts made me anxious. Some of the narrative about art school was very accurate to what getting an art degree is like. Which is to say if you like art biography or art about another type of art in another time. . . then you will dig this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Claire Hopple

    She was already an incredible writer and this is her best one yet.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    The premise is a young woman, Joey's coming of age, as they say, in San Francisco at art school. Part of the story is her quest to do a project revealing herself for her art project, and she decides to do a remake of Rushmore, a film she never saw. Part of the story is the drama of her sister leaving her baby son at home with their mother, and taking off on some adventure. Part of the story is Joey's feelings about the friends she meets in school, and her shifting relationships with them. Part of th The premise is a young woman, Joey's coming of age, as they say, in San Francisco at art school. Part of the story is her quest to do a project revealing herself for her art project, and she decides to do a remake of Rushmore, a film she never saw. Part of the story is the drama of her sister leaving her baby son at home with their mother, and taking off on some adventure. Part of the story is Joey's feelings about the friends she meets in school, and her shifting relationships with them. Part of the story is Joey correlating her current relationships with philosophy, and her own upbringing. The problem for me in reading this is that there is no separation, either in chapters, paragraphs, OR sentences between Joey's musing on these issues. Many paragraphs discuss one topic and disjointedly launch into another topic. I feel this book would have done well with better editing, and more organization from the author. She wanted to portray a random, eclectic life and she did so in the writing of the book. Many thanks to Soft Skull and Edelweiss Plus for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Hunter

    If you have a dysfunctional family and/or went to art school or you think about art a lot or you like books about art and dysfunctional families and wondering why we’re all so weird, this book is for you. It’s so funny and wonderful and sad.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    “If only I could afford therapy. Then I wouldn't need this art degree.” This novel follows Joey an art student over a final semester of sophomore year in college while she’s supposed to make a self portrait, and she uses a film she’s never even seen. This book, to me is seems, about relationships and how they are messy, how different lives affect these relationships etc.). This book was a quick read as through the days I read it I was able to do it in three sittings. I hope the book is given a c “If only I could afford therapy. Then I wouldn't need this art degree.” This novel follows Joey an art student over a final semester of sophomore year in college while she’s supposed to make a self portrait, and she uses a film she’s never even seen. This book, to me is seems, about relationships and how they are messy, how different lives affect these relationships etc.). This book was a quick read as through the days I read it I was able to do it in three sittings. I hope the book is given a chance.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    “If only I could afford therapy. Then I wouldn’t need this art degree.” 4.5/5 I loved this book! Beautifully written and a super well done story of a moment in time during a girl’s time at her art school. Throughout this book we see Joey’s struggle with her family, friends, her interests, and with a looming project she procrastinated completing throughout the novel. I truly felt like I was inside Joey’s mind as I was reading. She was so funny and relatable and I loved how the author allowed her th “If only I could afford therapy. Then I wouldn’t need this art degree.” 4.5/5 I loved this book! Beautifully written and a super well done story of a moment in time during a girl’s time at her art school. Throughout this book we see Joey’s struggle with her family, friends, her interests, and with a looming project she procrastinated completing throughout the novel. I truly felt like I was inside Joey’s mind as I was reading. She was so funny and relatable and I loved how the author allowed her thoughts to spiral and interconnect with one another. It did a fantastic job of expressing young adult friendships, relationships, and self doubts. Joey is a fantastic main character and this book was such a fun read!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Malorie Kerouac

    Fucking great

  13. 5 out of 5

    Richard Thompson

    This is the book that Sirens & Muses, which I read two weeks ago, should have been. Both books deal with two girls in art school, one a scholarship student, the other from a background of privilege. In Sirens & Muses, they go to a top school, and the heroines are beautiful and talented; their art and their opinions about art and their careers develop over the book, and there are a few bumps along the way, but it's pretty much a triumphal march toward artistic greatness for both of them. In Tell This is the book that Sirens & Muses, which I read two weeks ago, should have been. Both books deal with two girls in art school, one a scholarship student, the other from a background of privilege. In Sirens & Muses, they go to a top school, and the heroines are beautiful and talented; their art and their opinions about art and their careers develop over the book, and there are a few bumps along the way, but it's pretty much a triumphal march toward artistic greatness for both of them. In Tell Me I'm an Artist, the characters may or may not be beautiful and talented, and they may or may not be at a good art school. All of that is beside the point of the story. Instead, the characters are much more like the confused teenager that I was when I went to college. The rich girl is a decent person, who will definitely make a career for herself, but even she has some serious self doubt, and we never get enough of a sense of her art to be able to decide whether she is really talented. Joey, the poor girl in this book has much more serious challenges than the poor girl in Sirens & Muses. She doubts her talent; she doubts her friends; she doubts her looks. She has no idea of what her career in art will or won't be. Sound familiar when you think about your own teenage years? It rang true for me. But Joey has a unique voice, a strong mind and an authenticity that shine through all of her confusion and family problems. I instantly liked her and kept my warm feelings for her all the way through the book. I even liked her Rushmore project. This is a person who I would like to be my friend and who will have a successful life, whether she is an artist or something else.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stroop

    A moving and often hilarious novel about an art student struggling to complete (or even begin) a “self-portrait” assignment for a film class. Joey has a lot on her mind - her sister goes missing, she is broke, she isn’t sure what she wants to do or what is art even. We follow her over the course of one semester while she procrastinates her work on the “self-portrait.” An enjoyable read, told from Joey’s perspective. Joey will likely be relatable to anyone who has gone to art school while trying t A moving and often hilarious novel about an art student struggling to complete (or even begin) a “self-portrait” assignment for a film class. Joey has a lot on her mind - her sister goes missing, she is broke, she isn’t sure what she wants to do or what is art even. We follow her over the course of one semester while she procrastinates her work on the “self-portrait.” An enjoyable read, told from Joey’s perspective. Joey will likely be relatable to anyone who has gone to art school while trying to figure out who they are as a person, what they like, what they dislike, and how to make their own way in the world. Thank you very much to Soft Skull Press for the opportunity to read an advance copy.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Zoe

    Very hard for me not to see myself, former ambivalent art student named Zoe, in the main character of this book, ambivalent art student named Joey. A lot of the book was pretty much identical to my art school experience, except the way Suz was not hiding her money. When I was in art school everyone wanted to look like they were poor, which was really disorienting after having spent my whole life trying not to look poor. Anyway, I liked this book a lot.

  16. 5 out of 5

    BookBagDC

    This is a story about what it means to be an artist.  Joey is, perhaps, an unlikely art student.  Unlike many of her classmates at her San Francisco art school, she does not come from a wealthy family with lots of connections in the art world or one that spent their time discussing art.  While Joey often feels like she does not fit in with her fellow students, she feels like she equally does not fit in with her own family.  At school, Joey enrolls in a film elective course that requires her to c This is a story about what it means to be an artist.  Joey is, perhaps, an unlikely art student.  Unlike many of her classmates at her San Francisco art school, she does not come from a wealthy family with lots of connections in the art world or one that spent their time discussing art.  While Joey often feels like she does not fit in with her fellow students, she feels like she equally does not fit in with her own family.  At school, Joey enrolls in a film elective course that requires her to create a self-portrait.  Given her identity issues, it should not be surprising that this projects proves particularly challenging for Joey.  She decides for some reason, which is not clear even to her, to remake Wes Anderson's Rushmore, a film she has never seen, based on other people's memories of the movie and her general awareness of the film. The book traces Joey's efforts throughout the semester as she struggled to complete the project, all the while figuring out her role in the school and her relationship to her family and her closest friend in the program, Suz, who is everything Joey is not -- rich and the child of sophisticated and supportive parents.   I enjoyed this book.  I am partial to both to coming-of-age stories and novels set in art school, and this book deftly combined both in a narrative that offerings interesting insights into privilege, the role of class in the art world, the challenges of charting a path so different from that pursued by one's family, and the doubt all that can create.  I appreciated the author's frank exploration of Joey's relationship to her mother, sister, and nephew, and the way she both asserted boundaries and struggled with them and what they said about her.  I also appreciated how the author incorporated the main character's journal entries and search history into the story, as a way of providing even more context of Joey's mental state. Highly recommended!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Calyssa

    Something about this one just didn't really work as a whole novel. The concept was great, and even some of the characters were realistic and the sort of pretentious art school twit you meet in real life, or passive aggressive awful family members, but the way this was done into a novel did not work. There was no sense of immediacy or true, gnawing worry about finances or being jobless or being a mediocre art student in San Francisco. I enjoyed the little segments that showed Venn diagrams or sear Something about this one just didn't really work as a whole novel. The concept was great, and even some of the characters were realistic and the sort of pretentious art school twit you meet in real life, or passive aggressive awful family members, but the way this was done into a novel did not work. There was no sense of immediacy or true, gnawing worry about finances or being jobless or being a mediocre art student in San Francisco. I enjoyed the little segments that showed Venn diagrams or search history, because it really injected a sense of defeat and sadness, and accentuated art family trouble, school poverty, and self-doubt. Those were actually more demonstrative of what the main character is going through than the novel itself does. This one just missed the mark and opportunity to become a humorous novel or to become a cutting critique on class and art, and how one cuts off or destroys the capacity for the other. But this one rejected either label and decided to exist as neither, becoming middling and toothless. This would have been better as a series of short stories from the viewpoint of several characters or just one short story told from Joelle. One of the fatal flaws of this was that it was sucked into how much she hates her art and how little she knows about the movie Rushmore, which she bases her art project around. Her life and her wet gym sock personality and mediocrity could not sustain this book. She has no charisma or sense of humor besides self-deprecation. It's bad enough I meet and know people like Joelle, I don't want to read about her too. This novel told through the viewpoint of Suz, one of the best characters in here, would have been much more fun and meaningful, because her personality had more depth and precision than Joelle's. Thanks to Soft Skull and Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    “An opinion, not necessarily mine, but probably someone's, possibly someone smart and respected who has opinions that many people take seriously, potentially including myself, if I knew who this person was, or maybe it is even the opinion of many people all over the place for different reasons, maybe even a commonly held opinion, I have no idea: The world needs bad art.” I’m glad I gave this book a chance, as I normally probably wouldn’t have picked it up. This book explores Joey, her relationshi “An opinion, not necessarily mine, but probably someone's, possibly someone smart and respected who has opinions that many people take seriously, potentially including myself, if I knew who this person was, or maybe it is even the opinion of many people all over the place for different reasons, maybe even a commonly held opinion, I have no idea: The world needs bad art.” I’m glad I gave this book a chance, as I normally probably wouldn’t have picked it up. This book explores Joey, her relationships with friends and family, boys, and along with her self doubt. I’m not sure how to give a great in depth review but it’s a book I would recommend to try out. The college setting, the talks about how friendships work, and a messed up family all work great in here. 4.5 rounded up.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Why do strong emotions have more value in art than weak or complicated or mundane emotions? I feel like this quote is the best possible summation of my feelings on this novel as a whole. Typically I try and reserve 5 stars for books that deeply moved me, often to tears. This book was not that - but I found myself pausing and thinking over sections, re-reading paragraphs to better understand and mull over what the author was saying, and I read it without thinking about what book I would pick u Why do strong emotions have more value in art than weak or complicated or mundane emotions? I feel like this quote is the best possible summation of my feelings on this novel as a whole. Typically I try and reserve 5 stars for books that deeply moved me, often to tears. This book was not that - but I found myself pausing and thinking over sections, re-reading paragraphs to better understand and mull over what the author was saying, and I read it without thinking about what book I would pick up next (rare for me, these days...) Tell Me I'm an Artist is an unpretentious story of a young woman, Joey, as she navigates art school. She knows she loves art passionately, but is uncertain of the best way to create it or interpret it. There are a couple quotes from the blurbs that stand out to me as particularly apt at describing this book: ...a portrait of the artist as a work in progress - Sharma Shields ...a vital love story not often told - that of an artist's passionate, tumultuous, and often absurd relationship with her art - Hallie Bateman "Absurd" is a particularly good descriptor - Joey knows she loves art but she also knows that the value of the degree is questionable. She's funding her education through student loans - an extremely dubious financial decision (I'm speaking from experience); she does not come from money, quite the opposite. She has conflicting feelings over seeking an education at art school, given her family's financial situation. She both feels selfish and is told she's selfish by her mother and sister. Joey's family drama - in which her sister goes missing - is intertwined with Joey's journey at school. They're a reminder of her roots - of the world that she's trying to escape; an escape both from being poor and from a passionless, dreary life without art. This novel is a quiet but no less important personal journey for Joey - as she ends in a better place in her life, on a personal/ relationship level and on a financial level, though certainly not perfect. This novel also had some of the most nuanced, impactful scenes exploring class and privilege that I have ever read. At one point, Joey goes dumpster diving with her friend Suz, who comes from a wealthy family. A man approaches and runs off when Joey and Suz notices him. "What the hell," Suz said, laughing. I laughed, too. We walked away from the dumpster, our backpacks full, a knot of guilt developing in my stomach. What I thought we were stealing from a major corporation with no moral compass we were in fact stealing from someone, a real person, with nothing at all. Later, on the floor in my darkened apartment, surrounded by books, art supplies, thrifted furniture, nearly new, cheaply made textiles, and perfectly good almonds I had no intention of eating because the bag was dirty, I'd look up from the bright light of my phone and see my life in a way I hadn't before: as a gross display of wealth. I bookmarked a lot of sections of this - both for this review and for myself, to go back to and think over in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    4.5/5 stars only because I like Chelsea Martin's prose poems and shorter works better. The potency of the writing is diluted when you have a whole novel I guess? Still, an incredible debut novel that made me reflect a lot on my position in life and also made me laugh. I would recommend this book to anyone who has felt like an outsider, been part of the first gen in your family to do something, felt like an artist or not, or has struggled with addiction in your family. 4.5/5 stars only because I like Chelsea Martin's prose poems and shorter works better. The potency of the writing is diluted when you have a whole novel I guess? Still, an incredible debut novel that made me reflect a lot on my position in life and also made me laugh. I would recommend this book to anyone who has felt like an outsider, been part of the first gen in your family to do something, felt like an artist or not, or has struggled with addiction in your family.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Taryn

    I feel so seen. How close can a stranger get to writing your experience without knowing you? This close. It was always that ride of doubt and recommitment. This book took me right back there to being a poor art student working nearly full time and dealing with family dysfunction.

  22. 5 out of 5

    wynter

    Never has a novel so accurately captured my particular, highly-specific overactive guilt reflex.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nick Peters

    Very nice book. I read in two sittings but will read again at a slower pace.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Loic

    So funny, how things hit you by surprise? This book was that and I thank it so much.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Johns

    This was the realest. CM has done it again, her best book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Margie

    Enjoyed it a lot as an artist, even if I’m way older than the finding-her-own-way protagonist. You couldn’t help but cheer her on.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michael Smith

    I liked this book. Well-written, good character, a nice slant on a familiar story. Worth the read. (Great cover.)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kellylynn

    I didn't really like this one. But I did find the overall story of a girl in art school finding herself through a lot of self reflection in her second year studying. To me, it was just too much of over analysis and rambling about things. But I understand that this was supposed to be Joey's thoughts and struggles. It just didn't really work for me. At times it felt like too much, trying too hard. I actually won this one in one of the giveaways. I didn't really like this one. But I did find the overall story of a girl in art school finding herself through a lot of self reflection in her second year studying. To me, it was just too much of over analysis and rambling about things. But I understand that this was supposed to be Joey's thoughts and struggles. It just didn't really work for me. At times it felt like too much, trying too hard. I actually won this one in one of the giveaways.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    It is always interesting to get inside the head of a young person who is trying to figure who they are, in their own right and in relation to their family, and their direction in life. Here the author does an extraordinary job taking us into the interior monologue of Joey, a young woman attending art school in San Francisco where it seems that she is the only student in financial aid and without connections in the art world. Her friendships and romances are shifting at all times, and she is havi It is always interesting to get inside the head of a young person who is trying to figure who they are, in their own right and in relation to their family, and their direction in life. Here the author does an extraordinary job taking us into the interior monologue of Joey, a young woman attending art school in San Francisco where it seems that she is the only student in financial aid and without connections in the art world. Her friendships and romances are shifting at all times, and she is having great difficulty completing her project for her film class. And her mother keeps calling, asking for money and assistance with her nephew, who has been abandoned by Jenny, Joey’s sister. She has on her plate, and we get to hear it all. Excellent character portrayal. As always, I listened as an audiobook. Devon Sorvaro does a great job voicing all the characters here. While her character vocal shifts are subtle, each character is distinct and her voice is full of the confusion and emotionality of youth.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Starla Helmer

    I wasn’t impressed with this book at all. It seemed very random and not a strong storyline. I wish it dived more into her relationship with her mom and sister. It was just a rambling about her in art school complaining about a project. A terrible project idea. The writing reminded me of the movie Fight Club and how the dialogue seemed to be between two different personas.

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