FAKE I.D. by Mariko Tamaki (Women's Press), 121 pages, $19.95 paper. Rating: NNNN
The problem with most young writers is that the things they see as endlessly fascinating are often not as interesting as they think. You can't say that about Mariko Tamaki.
She has an uncanny observational eye. She can be very funny, and her teen experiences are edgy enough to keep you turning the pages.
The title of this collection of essays reflects a theme in Tamaki's work: the paradox of her identity. She's half Jewish and half Japanese, which translates as "Asian" to ignorant people. Read the short piece called Identified to see how people react to her name.
She attended a ritzy private school but now lives on the margins as a writer, playwright and cultural agitator and has more alt-cred than most public school punks. She'd call herself an artist but has no problem sending up artistic pretension, as she does to terrific effect in The Forest For The Trees.
And where most 20-something diarists delude themselves into thinking that every one of their banal perceptions constitutes an original insight, Tamaki actually does have something new to say.
There is beauty here, too, especially in To H, With Love, Tamaki's brief but poignant piece about the death of her girlfriend's mother.
Fake I.D. is a quick read, full of small pleasures. No big, fat deal here, just a talented writer getting better and better.
Tamaki joins the Scream at TWB tonight (Thursday, June 30). See Readings, this page.