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‘Paris: The Memoir’ Review: The Truth About Paris Hilton the Cameras Never Showed Us

5 Stars

Cover of Paris Hilton's "Paris: The Memoir."
Cover of Paris Hilton's "Paris: The Memoir." By Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers
By Selorna A. Ackuayi, Crimson Staff Writer

Readers may expect Paris Hilton’s memoir to be full of pink dresses, diamonds, fashion advice, famous name drops, and lavish parties. While all of these can be found in Paris Hilton’s new book, “Paris: The Memoir,” they only adorn the background of this portrait of a raw, relatable life. Through strikingly clear writing, Paris Hilton deconstructs her public image. Hilton does not force relatability, using her genuine prose and naturally witty humor to highlight the parts of her life that paparazzi and TV cameras never could.

The less publicized realities of Hilton’s life lay the foundation of this work. Readers learn about Hilton’s struggles with ADHD, the motivations behind her party-girl persona in her teenage years, and her struggles with her family. The recollections of her adolescence center around one of the most tragic and personal moments of the book: her harrowing experience at a troubled teen facility called CEDU.

She details her forceful removal from home in 1997, which led to her two-year confinement in a facility called CEDU — a place where her parents, concerned for her safety, sent her at age 16 for safety concerns after her months of late-night partying. Hilton describes the disturbing experiences she faced at this facility, where “disobedient ravers from conservative families and ADHD kids who got kicked out of school” were sent.

With the agility of a seasoned writer, Hilton brings life to the verbally abusive false group therapy sessions, sexual abuse, drugging, psychological manipulation, and demanding physical labor she faced at CEDU. Hilton achieves a closeness that goes beyond a memoir’s typical intimacy with its readers; her illuminative imagery allows her audience to develop deep empathy for her and other teenagers forced into these camps.

What stands out most in Hilton’s memoir is the unique way she structures her story. In the book’s prologue, Hiton details her experience with ADHD and describes how this has shaped her life.

“Because my attention span is limited, I don’t see time as linear,” writes Hilton, “the ADHD brain processes past, present, and future as a Spirograph of interconnected events, which gives me a certain Spidey sense about fashion trends and technology.”

Hilton spins a web of stories that bounces back and forth between her present and her past, writing in a way that, as Hilton describes, models a conversation with her as someone with ADHD. This restless motion through the memoir is unexpectedly clarifying; readers gain more insight into Paris’s perspective as moments that readers are familiar with from early 2000s media are tied to personal stories that describe Paris’s thoughts at the time. This connect-the-dots storytelling style engages the reader by mixing a thoughtful and intellectual voice with the familiar Paris-isms entrenched in popular culture.

With an articulate and confident voice, Hilton presents herself as the Paris she herself defines, not the character that people may encounter on reality television.

This vulnerability woven through the memoir allows Hilton to align herself with her audience. In a particularly unguarded moment, Hilton writes about how she came to terms with her asexuality, in light of her recognition as a “sex symbol.”

When reflecting on her time at CEDU and its impacts on her life now, Hilton writes, “The ironic thing is, because of the abuse and degradation I survived as a teen — and maybe partly because of the way I was raised — I feared sex.”

In a way, Hilton’s memoir is the permission that readers have been waiting for. For such a powerful icon to come forward and openly accept herself and share her truths may be the inspiration that other readers need.

“I promised myself I would be truthful,” writes Hilton, “and I know that there’s someone out there who needs to hear that they're not weird or frigid or dead inside — they’re just who they are at this moment: an asexual person in a hypersexualized world.”

Bringing things full circle, Hilton shares her activist work in Washington D.C. where she lobbies legislators to create regulatory laws against the troubled teen industry. Her work includes planning rallies and protests and spreading awareness about her experience, particularly through a podcast called “Trapped in Treatment” which she hosts alongside fellow troubled teen industry survivor, Caroline Cole.

Wrapped in a rather unassuming pink book jacket, “Paris: The Memoir” is a transformative experience. Throughout the memoir, Hilton defies readers’ preconceived notions, writing with a confidence that paints herself in the light she deserves. Her hard-hitting messages radiate self-awareness and tenacity, resonating deeply with both audiences who have followed her since the early 2000s and those who are just learning of her story.

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