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Rose of No Man's Landby Michelle Tea
Synopses & Reviews
When theres nowhere to go but up, why bother going anyplace at all?
Fourteen-year-old Trisha Driscoll is a hungry machine, taking in her hometown of Mogsfield, Massachusetts – a place that has shamelessly surrendered to neon signs, theme restaurants, and cookie-cutter chain stores. Cynical but naive, Trisha observes the disappointing world from the ignored perspective of a teenager: creepy guys, the unfathomable sadness of the elderly, illegal tattoos, and the wild kingdom of mall culture.
After being hired and abruptly fired from the most popular shop at the absurd and kaleidoscopic Square One Mall, Trisha finds herself linked up with a chain-smoking, physically stunted mall rat named Rose, and her life shifts into manic overdrive.
A whirlwind exploration of poverty and dropouts, Rose of No Mans Land is the world according to Trisha–a furious love story between two weirdo girls, brimming with snarky observations and soulful wonderings on the dazzle-flash emptiness of contemporary culture.
"Tea follows up her Lambda Award — winning San Francisco prostitution memoir, Valencia (2000), her sporadically transcendent collected poems, The Beautiful (2003), and last year's graphic novel, Rent Girl (now in development for TV), with this inspired queer bildungsroman. In Trisha Driscoll, Tea has developed an unreliable narrator who stands on her own. Trisha is a doughy, alcoholic 10th-grade denizen of Mogsfield, Mass., a fictional white trash nowhere. Her father is long gone; her mother, owing to psychosomatic back problems, does not leave the couch; her mother's boyfriend, Donnie, enters the kitchen only to make ramen; her younger sister, Kristy, is obsessed with launching herself onto reality TV and constantly films the family dysfunctioning around her. The first half of the novel establishes Trisha's grim bedroom-to-mall despair. In the second, a new friend, Rose, a fry cook who looks 12 — appears, and the two go on a crystal meth — fueled adventure with blissful highs and crashing lows. Tea is brilliant in making the stakes for Trisha abundantly clear as she discovers sex (and, concurrently, her sexuality), drugs and the emotional gains and losses attendant to each. Add in minor characters like the never-seen but oft-discussed Kim Porciatti and various dumb guys in cars, and you have a postmillennial, class-adjusted My So-Called Life." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The heroine of 'Rose of No Man's Land,' Michelle Tea's riotous paean to teenage-girl lonerdom, is Trisha Driscoll, a world-weary 14-year-old who sits in her room guzzling beer. She lives in a blue-collar suburb of Boston with her hypochondriac slacker mom, her mom's 'mulleted loser' boyfriend and her hairdresser sister Kristy, whose big plan for the summer is to put together an audition tape for 'The... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) Real World' — 'so that some stupid MTV person fascinated with white trash people will see that Kristy is the real thing, stick her on the show, and wait for her to say ignorant things to the black person and the gay person.' Trisha may not get out much, but she's wise to the ways of the world. Her own ambitions are touchingly modest: to make a friend. She meets an unlikely candidate at the mall. Waifish and street-savvy, Rose leads Trisha on a wild hitchhiking adventure involving a stolen cellphone, a drug-dealing pedophile and a tattoo parlor. Hopped-up on crystal meth, the girls get frisky with each other at the local putt-putt. Not bad for a first night out. What keeps you glued to the page through the weavings of plot is Trisha's wry commentary, delivered with teenage-girl brio, on everything from family life and mall culture to the evils of television and cigarettes. Here's Trisha on the subject of her mother's live-in boyfriend: 'Ma says about Donnie: 'At least he doesn't bother you girls.' By 'bother' she means 'try to have sex with,' and she says it like we, me and Kristy, should drop to our knees and kiss the peeling linoleum and prostrate ourselves to the patron saint of creepy dudes for sending us such a winner. I think the biggest problem between me and my family ... is we have really different standards.' For Trisha, the evening with Rose is also a journey of sexual self-discovery and a hard lesson in the quickly shifting allegiances of female friendship. Tea — who has published four other books, including 'Rent Girl,' an illustrated novel based on her experiences as a lesbian prostitute — strikes a nice balance between drug-fueled sexual experimentation and the quieter concerns of a traditional coming-of-age story. Her novel is full of fire and sass and honest, good writing, and it seems marked for cult status among teen girls. Anne Taylor Fleming's new novel is an entirely different foray into the territory of fraught female relationships. 'As If Love Were Enough' tells the story of Clare and Louise Layton, two sisters who grew up in California in the '60s, struck out on different life paths and became estranged. Clare, the protagonist, moved to New York and fully embraced its lifestyle. She makes her living writing 'think pieces' for women's magazines, eats her takeout on real china with silverware and a cloth napkin, and plays mistress to an older married man. She's no Pollyanna harboring illusions about marital bliss and babies in Bugaboo strollers, but all the same she can't quite keep at bay the fear of becoming 'one of those aging, well-kept-up girl-women I see all around the city ... quiet hair, good coats and scarves, plucky and attractive but a little pallid from lives unlived, children unhad ... coming back to their one-bedroom apartments, just like this one.' Louise's surprise appearance in New York dramatically upends Clare's established routine. Clare becomes convinced, mistakenly, that her sister is on the run from an abusive marriage. But Louise actually wants Clare's help in a very different matter: Her 17-year-old son needs a liver transplant, and Louise hopes that her journalist sister might publicize his case and improve his chances on the organ-donor list. The rest of the novel is taken up with Clare's struggle to conquer her anger at her sister for wrongs past and present, to do the right thing by her sick nephew (a charismatic evangelical Christian) and to sort out how she feels about her long-standing affair. Plunked in the middle of all this is a lengthy flashback chronicling Clare and Louise's childhood as the daughters of a television actress and a Hollywood screenwriter. It's meant to flesh out the characters and contextualize their anxieties, but it reads like a chunk from another novel. Fleming writes lively prose, has a good eye for detail and takes her story, which starts out in shopworn 'Sex and the City' territory, in an interesting and unexpected direction. But one also gets the sense that she wasn't sure when to call it quits. This book — a family saga, a love story, a religious sojourn and a medical drama all rolled into one — feels overstuffed. And the favorable resolution of all of these story lines can't help but seem like a contrivance." Reviewed by Julia Livshin, a former staff editor at the Atlantic Monthly, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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A whirlwind exploration of poverty and dropouts, "Rose of No Man's Land" is the world according to Trisha--a furious love story between two weirdo girls, brimming with snarky observations and soulful wonderings on the dazzle-flash emptiness of contemporary culture.
About the Author
Michelle Tea lives in San Francisco, where she is beloved for her writing, her spoken word, and her innovative arts organization that brought the world Sister Spit. Her published books include Rent Girl, The Chelsea Whistle, and Valencia. She loves – like, really loves–beauty products.
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