Book Beat May 09 2001

Bookstore shelves groan under the collective weight of the celebrity-recovery-tell-all genre, and Margaret Cho’s I’m the One That I Want adds to it, albeit in her characteristically acerbic and frank manner.

Cho joins author-celebs like Chuck Negron and Richard Lewis, offering sordid accounts of screwing up relationships, scoring dope and wondering if she was the one who urinated in the bed.

Pulling readers in from the start, she tells of her fractured childhood in San Francisco. Her storytelling ability shines through in poignant yet lurid tales like that of a friend whose mother was an alcoholic, or her own horrible experiences of betrayal and rejection at summer camp.

Many of her relationships, whether with childhood friends, lovers, family or colleagues, involved rejection, cruelty or addiction — alone or in combination. But Cho does not paint herself as a martyr. In fact, I’m the One reads like a 12-stepper’s attempt at making amends to those she harmed in the past. She goes so far as to say, about one ex-boyfriend: ” ... I wish him nothing but the best. I am not trying to hurt him in writing this. I only want to tell what happened, and how I felt.” Those personal stories propel the reader through I’m the One to find out just how it all ends.

And at the book’s end, Cho sobers up. With vague references to an inner strength in the form of a goddess discovered during yoga class, the end is disjointed and disappointing. Cho glosses over her life and struggles, offering a quick and self-help jargon-ridden conclusion. She issues a call-to-arms to women with body image issues, but she doesn’t convince readers that she’s resolved the issue for herself. I wish she would just admit to being confused like the rest of us, or that she would have written more about her new, sober life and how she got that way.??