Synopses & Reviews
A dreamlike, dystopian meditation on sobriety, adulthood, and the obligations of storytelling.
It's 1999—and Michelle's world is ending.
Desperate to quell her addiction to drugs, disastrous romance, and nineties San Francisco, Michelle heads south for LA. But soon it's officially announced that the world will end in one year, and life in the sprawling metropolis becomes increasingly weird.
While living in an abandoned bookstore, dating Matt Dillon, and keeping an eye on the encroaching apocalypse, Michelle begins a new novel, a sprawling and meta-textual exploration to complement her promises of maturity and responsibility. But as she tries to make queer love and art without succumbing to self-destructive vice, the boundaries between storytelling and everyday living begin to blur, and Michelle wonders how much she'll have to compromise her artistic process if she's going to properly ride out doomsday.
In the first half of Tea’s (Valencia) autobiographical latest set in San Francisco’s Mission District in 1999 sex and drugs are the primary occupations of the protagonist also named Michelle. As Michelle gets drunk one evening like most evenings she watches the sunset from the doorway of the bar: “The hue of the sky was the visual equivalent of the alcohol settling into her body—dusky blue shot with gold and darkening to navy.” In Tea’s skillfully loose lusty prose Michelle is both vulnerable and brash blitzing through lovers and bags of heroin terrified but also convinced of her own invincibility. This tension emphasizes the reckless force of youth as well as the waning freedom of life before cell phones and the full blown Internet making this book an important portrait of the late ’90s. The second half of the novel however in which Michelle moves to L.A. morphs messily into a metacognitive excavation of what it means to write rewrite and revise one’s own story into art. This section of the book which also plays with chronology the approaching apocalypse and the fabrication or conflation of characters is less successful in part because it ultimately feels less honest. The one exception however is the appearance of Matt Dillon in the used bookstore where Michelle works a perfect hilarious celebrity interaction subplot anchoring Tea back down to the awkward dialogue and fierce desire she does so well. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
"I worship at the altar of this book. Somehow Michelle Tea has managed to write a hilarious, scorching, devastatingly observed novel about addiction, sex, identity, the 90s, apocalypse, and autobiography, while also gifting us with an indispensable meditation on what it means to write about those things—indeed, on what it means to write at all. A keen portrait of a subculture, an instant classic in life-writing, a go-for-broke exemplar of queer feminist imagination, a contribution to crucial, ongoing conversations about whose lives matter, Black Wave is a rollicking triumph." Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
"I was unable put to Black Wave down, suddenly afraid and unsure of what was out there beyond my reading. This bad fairytale-come-true is destabilizing and palpable, and it’s Michelle Tea’s most fearless book. It’s a radically honest, scary, and wonderful place that Michelle has spun. It shook me up." Eileen Myles, author of Chelsea Girls
"In Tea's skillfully loose, lusty prose, Michelle is both vulnerable and brash, blitzing through lovers and bags of heroin, terrified but also convinced of her own invincibility... [A]n important portrait of the late '90s." Publishers Weekly
"Gliding deftly through issues of addiction and recovery, erasure and assimilation, environmental devastation and mass delusion about our own pernicious tendencies, this is a genre- and reality-bending story of quiet triumph for the perennial screw-up and unabashed outsider. A biting, sagacious, and delightfully dark metaliterary novel about finding your way in a world on fire." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
About the Author
Michelle Tea is the author of numerous books, including Rent Girl, Valencia, and How to Grow Up. She is the creator of the Sister Spit all-girl open mic and 1997-1999 national tour. In 2003, Michelle founded RADAR Productions, a literary non-profit that oversees queer-centric projects.