I absolutely fell in love with this wistful coming-of-age story about a young art student in search of her identity. Joey grapples with family dysfunction, complex friendship dynamics, and the joys and challenges of creativity as she tries to figure out how to complete a self-portrait assignment before the semester ends. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you might even pick up a sketchbook of your own before it's over.— Abby
“Chelsea Martin completely nails what it’s like to be in a creative space that is quietly but heavily divided by class. Who can focus on creativity when they worry about making rent? The protagonist is written with such care and insight.”
— Audrey Kohler, BookWoman, Austin, TX
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.