Book Review

How to Fail as a Popstar by Vivek Shraya

Genre | Theatrical Memoir
Page #s | 72
Publishing Date | April 2021

Described as “cultural rocket fuel” by Vanity Fair, Vivek Shraya is a multi-media artist whose art, music, novels, and poetry and children’s books explore the beauty and the power of personal and cultural transformation. How to Fail as a Popstar is Vivek’s debut theatrical work, a one-person show that chronicles her journey from singing in shopping malls to “not quite” pop music superstardom with beguiling humor and insight. A reflection on the power of pop culture, dreams, disappointments, and self-determination, this astonishing work is a raw, honest, and hopeful depiction of the search to find one’s authentic voice.

The book includes color photographs from the show’s 2020 production in Toronto, and a foreword by its director Brendan Healy.


Vivek Shraya is on my list of “Read Everything They Write” authors (see my reviews of The Subtweet and I’m Afraid of Men), and How to Fail as a Popstar did not disappoint! Originally released as a theatrical memoir, you can read the play in novella form, which is what I did, and still enjoy all the jokes and emotions.

From the title to the prologue, we are reminded that this is a story about failure. And not the pretty kind that revealed a deeper truth…the kind that hurts. The kind you carry with you, and that’s okay. Shraya’s story ends fairly abruptly, but that’s the nature of failure; you work and work and work until suddenly, it’s over. The anti-climactic ending is the point.

This kind of story is so important to tell! In media, we only tend to see examples of people pursuing dreams and succeeding against all odds, but I’d wager nearly all of us have had a dream that didn’t go anywhere. And that experience deserves to be honoured too. Doing so creates the very important distinction between experiencing failure and being a failure. Shraya isn’t a failure – she’s an award-winning author. But she wasn’t successful at the thing she really wanted to do, and boy, is that a reality a lot of us can understand!

With her customary honesty, wit, and sly humor, Shraya rocks it again. I can’t wait to read whatever she comes up with next!

Who Do I Recommend This Book To?

How to Fail as a Popstar is a book for anyone who has failed because of systemic oppression, bad timing, unhelpful mentors, or bad luck.

Check out our Queer Lil Library for more book recommendations and reviews!

1 comment on “How to Fail as a Popstar by Vivek Shraya

  1. Pingback: Roar Cat Reads Book Suggestions for Our 2022 LGBTQ+ Summer Book Bingo – Roar Cat Reads

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