I Don’t Want To Die Poor: Essays, by Michael Arceneaux
It is unclear, and I am no unbiased observer, whether this book will have its intended aim of helping the author die other than poor. There are certainly areas where I could relate to the author and his struggles, including the desire of being taken seriously as a writer, the struggle to pay college loans, the struggle to find love and relationships in one’s thirties and even the struggle to deal with matters of mental health and family patterns of alcohol addictions and eating disorders. Ultimately, this book could have been one I greatly enjoyed, had the author been the sort of person who wished to build bridges instead of walls with his readers. A wise author would find himself building empathy with others as a result of the struggles shared here and realize that a great many people, potentially, could appreciate the struggle to make something of oneself and to be more than simply a blue checkmark struggling to pay the bills and escape the hounding calls of debt collectors. Unfortunately, this author is not a wise author and instead of being able to build empathy, he sabotages the goodwill that the reader would feel by whining about how hard he had life as a gay black man and that whites and straight people have it so much easier than he does. That this is simply not true makes this book a frustrating read and not nearly as relatable as it could have been in the hands of a writer not so poisoned by identity politics.
This particular book is a collection of essays that is between 200 and 250 pages. During the course of this book the reader learns a lot about the author, most of it not particularly flattering. Included in this is the author’s acquisition of large amounts of debt because he went to Howard rather than going to a less expensive university, about which he complains a lot. He talks about reality television and his desire to avoid the tropiness of being a gay black man, although this book is full of evidence of the tropiness and cliched aspects of that existence that the author wishes to overcome. There are essays that look at the author’s fantasies about having been a K Street Prostitute, except he admits himself unable to shut up enough to have profited from such a profession, as well as the author’s addictions to alcohol and prescription drugs and his eating disorder struggle. The author talks about his relationship history and his struggle to have lasting personal relationships, which he attributes to his pickiness. At the end we get the titular essay where the author expresses a desire not to die poor, a desire that is shared by a great many people, many of whom are nowhere near as privileged as the author, despite his persistent inability to recognize how he has been blessed over the course of his life. Insight is, sadly, not a strong point of these essays.
Even as a book that is greatly sabotaged by the author’s complete lack of insight about how hard life is for everyone and how little people want to hear about the problems of a comparatively privileged member of the journo class, this book is not entirely worthless. It provides a great example of the connection between bad mental health and bad choices when it comes to love and relationships that exists in this world and the way that contemporary progressives are simply miserable people who have lived miserable lives and want to blame other people for it and claim that other people have easier circumstances as a way of escaping responsibility for their poor choices. Among the numerous poor choices the author makes over the course of this short book is the statement that he would rather die than to be Republican, which is probably reflective of a great deal of the author’s intended reading audience but no particular help in demonstrating his insight to someone who does not agree with very much about the author has done with his God-given gifts. This book, like the life of the author, appears full of wasted potential and marked tendencies for self-sabotage.