Texas Book Festival 2017: Samantha Irby

Meet the author of We Are Never Meeting in Real Life in real life

The title of Samantha Irby’s latest essay collection might be We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, but that doesn’t mean it’s never going to happen for us Austinites. At this year’s Texas Book Festival, the hilarious and unapologetically candid writer will offer die-hard fans and new readers the chance to hear her discuss her raunchy tales IRL.

Samantha Irby (Photo by Kirsten Jennings)

The first of Irby’s panels, “Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance and Revolution,” will be in conversation with Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding, editors of the essay collection Nasty Women, as well as fellow contributor (and former Chronicle staffer) Sarah Hepola. Though she says she’s not comfortable writing about politics, Irby felt it was important to contribute her work to the collection nevertheless. Referring to her role as a writer following the 2016 election, Irby told the Chronicle, “It’s going to be my job just to keep making jokes and keep trying to help people laugh.”

Her second event, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Everything,” with Scaachi Koul, will cover Irby’s We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. In her second essay collection, Irby chronicles everything from a trip to Nashville to scatter (and maybe taste, you’ll have to read to find out) the ashes of her estranged father to the reasons why one should “fuck it, bitch” and “stay fat.”

Prior to her published essay collections, Irby first rose to fame with her blog “Bitches Gotta Eat.” Today, she still returns to some of her blog posts for new essay material, though it’s a sometimes uncomfortable process. “It’s easy to be like, ‘Oh man, I’ve already tackled this before. Let me go through the archives and see how much of this is still relevant to me.’ But also it feels kinda gross,” says Irby. “Especially when time passes, I think, ‘Oh, I don’t say amazeballs anymore.’ It’s dumb things that come back and convict me.” More often than not, though, Irby jokes, “I’m usually pleasantly surprised to find that I am consistent in either a good or a bad way ... young me didn’t embarrass current me nearly as much as I expected she would.”

An out, queer writer, Irby’s work is popular among queer and non-queer circles alike, although she says readers are occasionally surprised to find out she’s married to a woman. In Irby’s opinion, she thinks her queerness is sometimes overlooked since so much of her earlier material on “Bitches Gotta Eat” revolved around her experiences dating men. “When I was writing about dating a lot, it was always to make fun of dudes. I’m just never going to talk shit about women in my work. I don’t want to drag a woman I’ve dated.”

In We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, however, Irby writes in detail about her relationship with her wife Kirsten Jennings. One piece, in particular, titled “Mavis” (also Irby’s pseudonym for Jennings) hilariously details the first time Irby and Jennings slept together. And while the essay breaches some intimate topics – like the couple’s awkward fumblings with a strap-on dildo and Irby’s musings on cunnilingus – writing about her relationship with Jennings was never off-limits. “It was never an option for me to not write about her because it’s such a big part of my life,” explains Irby.

There are, of course, some elements of their relationship that Irby won’t include in her work. Irby says she uses her writing – both on her her blog and in her essay collections – as a way to work through complicated experiences, but that doesn’t mean she’ll include every little fight or disagreement she has with her wife. “Writing about Kirsten and being true to my readers and people who have come to expect a certain level of transparency while also not betraying anything about her – I still feel like I’m finding that line.”

And if running a hugely popular blog and churning out critically acclaimed essay collections wasn’t enough, Irby also finds time to write Marie Claire’s book recommendation column, an advice column for Shondaland.com, and is in the process of adapting her first essay collection, Meaty, into an FX TV series. For now, though, Irby is thrilled about returning to Austin for this year’s Texas Book Festival. As she recently talked about on her blog, Irby battled some serious dehydration the last time she was in town for a book tour stop in June. “This time, I’m hoping to at least have some good drinks and some good tacos for a couple of days.”

“Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance and Revolution” takes place Sunday, Nov. 5, 11:30am, at Capitol Extension Room E2.012. At 2:30pm that day, catch Irby at “What We Talk About When We Talk About Everything” in Capitol Extension Room E2.014.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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Texas Book Festival, Texas Book Festival 2017, Samantha Irby, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, Bitches Gotta Eat, Samhita Mukhopadhyay, Kate Harding, Nasty Women, Sarah Hepola, Scaachi Koul, Kirsten Jennings

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