Bamboozled by Jesus: How God Tricked Me into the Life of My Dreams by Yvonne Orji

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Bamboozled by Jesus by Yvonne Orji is a comedic memoir designed for the reader to recognize the little miracles that help you on your path.

The star of HBO’s Insecure, Yvonne Orji takes her love for Jesus Christ to new heights by sharing some of her profound moments that led her to Hollywood from growing up in suburban Maryland to Nigerian parents. She shares the wisdom she obtained from these minor and major blessings and how they kept her motivated to reach her dreams.

Being bamboozled by Jesus is low-key, the most frustratingly amazing thing you’ll ever experience. It ain’t always sexy, but it is always worth it. But don’t feel bad for wanting to tap out midway through. Even Jesus looked for an exit strategy. He straight up asked God, If there be any other way, let this cup pass me by. In other words, Fam, this ain’t it!

Her dreams of becoming a doctor are shaped by her parents’ medical careers but watching her aunt recover from an ectopic pregnancy motivated her even more. Until she fails organic chemistry in college. Yet college is also the place she realizes she isn’t as connected with Jesus the way she thought she was being raised Catholic. This stabilizes her religious path, where she famously promises to stay a virgin until marriage. Though she knew being a doctor was not in the cards, she still pursues a career in public health, which takes her to Africa for work. When she returns to the U.S., she is determined to break into entertainment with a move to New York City then to Los Angeles, where in both places she receives shelter and transportation from friends and acquaintances practically free of cost. She wins small screenwriting and stand-up comedy gigs that grow in momentum and leads to a tryout for her breakout role as Molly on Insecure.

The author’s religious schtick is sometimes entertaining and sometimes perplexing. Amid describing her transitions, she recounts Bible stories, more in a ratchet retelling that has you questioning if that’s what you read in the holy book or what she calls Da Good Book. But she’s trying to be funny and relate it to modern times, so it’s hard to fault her with that attempt. When she auditions for Insecure, she prays for the role but worries her prayers will clash with other actresses’ prayers since they too were Christian. But is it Christian to pray for others to be eliminated from the competition?

The cultural references take a backseat to the religious theme. Though she says she’s leaning into her “Nigerianness,” it would’ve been nice to get more of a setting of her upbringing in the U.S. juxtaposed with her family annual trips to Nigeria. And she makes a few wisecracks toward Ghana, which may be taken as funny or offensive depending on your ethnicity.

Overall, the book’s inspirational message gets tangled in the repackaged biblical stories and random references to drive her point home like that blurb about basketball player Jeremy Lin’s Linsanity phase. The concept is interesting, but it comes off as overdone in this case where the reader has to stay on their toes but may have lost the depth of the content. The book may be more enjoyable if you know your holy book stories à la the Bible versions and your pop cultural references to understand how the small steps lead to the bigger picture.

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