I Want to Be Where the Nor­mal Peo­ple Are

Rachel Bloom

  • Review
By – April 19, 2021

If you’re famil­iar with Rachel Bloom’s work, you’ve prob­a­bly come to expect a cer­tain lev­el of the­atri­cal­i­ty from the writer and actress. Bloom’s YouTube par­o­dies of Brit­ney Spears music videos and ani­mat­ed Dis­ney princess­es proved that her tal­ent radi­at­ed across gen­res. When she found a larg­er audi­ence through her musi­cal TV show, Crazy Ex-Girl­friend, she nor­mal­ized anti­de­pres­sants through tap­dance and dressed up as a sexy fash­ion cac­tus” to sing about unre­quit­ed love — con­firm­ing that sil­ly songs can have an emo­tion­al impact.

In her debut book, I Want to be Where the Nor­mal Peo­ple Are, Bloom finds inno­v­a­tive ways to ensure her the­ater-kid ener­gy bursts out of every page. As the title sug­gests, this col­lec­tion of essays and sto­ries details the ways Bloom has been made to feel abnor­mal, and how she’s learned to embrace that inner weirdo. From mid­dle-school bul­lies to per­son­al strug­gles with OCD, her expe­ri­ences form vis­cer­al accounts of how self-con­scious­ness can build through child­hood and ado­les­cence. Tak­en togeth­er, they demon­strate that feel­ing like an out­sider is a uni­ver­sal experience.

This is not a typ­i­cal mem­oir. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, Bloom fol­lows no rules and con­sis­tent­ly breaks form. While there are some straight­for­ward per­son­al essays in this col­lec­tion, they are out­num­bered by cre­ative­ly framed ones. A his­to­ry of Bloom’s roman­tic rela­tion­ships is told as a fairy tale in which a witch curs­es her to be the The Lamest Mis­tress.” Dra­mat­ic entries from child­hood diaries are reimag­ined as the dia­gram for an amuse­ment park called Orig­i­nal Nar­ra­tive Fun Times Thrill World.” These unex­pect­ed tan­gents are the book’s strongest points. What nerd wouldn’t be delight­ed to find Har­ry Pot­ter fan fic­tion among the essays in this collection?

If you are con­cerned that Bloom’s musi­cal genius would go unac­knowl­edged in this form, think again. The apex of her the­atri­cal­i­ty comes at How Can I Explain?” It’s the ori­gin sto­ry of Bloom’s love affair with musi­cal the­ater writ­ten as — you guessed it — a musi­cal! The script is in the book, but you can also hear Bloom per­form it on her web­site.

As the book pro­gress­es and Bloom takes us through expe­ri­ences from her adult life, child­hood inse­cu­ri­ties catch up with her time and time again. This isn’t dis­heart­en­ing, though — just an acknowl­edge­ment that the self-con­scious­ness learned in ado­les­cence is inescapable. It fol­lows us through col­lege and first jobs, cuts through rela­tion­ships, and can alter our per­cep­tion of our­selves. But see­ing Bloom har­ness her per­ceived odd­i­ties to fuel a unique career proves the use­ful­ness of our own unusu­al traits. After all, these are the qual­i­ties that cre­ate suc­cess­ful, bound­ary-break­ing adults.

Emi­ly Mari­noff is a cul­ture writer and audio pro­duc­er. Her writ­ing has appeared in Roads & King­doms and Buz­zfeed, and she cur­rent­ly makes pod­casts at iHeart­Media. She is espe­cial­ly enthu­si­as­tic about bread making. 

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