Queer culture icon Tea’s first-ever collection of journalistic writing. As she blurs the line between telling other people’s stories and her own, she turns an investigative eye to the genre that’s nurtured her entire career―memoir―and considers the price that art demands be paid from life.
...the best essay collection I’ve read in years ... Tea’s reporting from Camp Trans is the opposite of the broad and ignorant way that gender nonconformity is written about in mainstream news outlets. It is done from a position of deep understanding, of detail ... Tea honors the HAGS gang because it’s personal, because it’s important, and because the bad, hard, beautiful life of poor queers doesn’t make it into history. Her writing about butch-femme romance extends one hand back to the history of punk lesbian publishing and another forward, into the future. She writes the lives of the SM dykes, the trans women excluded by normative lesbians, the poor butches who are for some reason never, ever on television. Swagger is a way of walking away from, or through, the tough conditions of a heteronormative world. If Tea over-romanticizes that walk for a moment, it’s a small price for so much truth.
Against Memoir is a thoughtfully curated showcase of Tea’s writing about queer politics, relationships, history, and the self ... what strikes me about her work here is how connective her first person is, how strongly she binds the personal to the communities and contexts that have shaped it, whether her family and her working-class community in Chelsea, Massachusetts, or the dyke punk subculture of 1990s San Francisco ... 'Reading this made me feel happy and alive,' she says of Eileen Myles’s Chelsea Girls. These essays do the same for me.
In previous memoirs Michelle Tea brilliantly captured the seething desires of adolescence and the growing pains of reluctant maturity. Her new book is just as raw, just as honest, just as gorgeously punk-rock rebellious ... Tea does this with many of the dark and dangerous moments in this book—she doesn’t exactly make light of them, but she describes them with a clear-eyed honesty that allows her sense of humor to cut through the pain ... Tea is at her best in this book when she uses her own experiences as a lens through which to see a piece of art or a cultural shift ... Michelle Tea may settle into a sobriety from alcohol, a sobriety of family, a sobriety of intellectual thought, but her writing will always be wild with sex and desire and music and art, always reaching to discover a new 'difficult beauty,' and leaving her readers high—on writing and life.