The heroin, that trickster, had made her feel actual love and then ripped it away

black wave coverBlack Wave
by Michelle Tea

This is an apocalyptic feminist novel about queer culture in 1990s California. It is strange and dark and brilliant. Perhaps it’s because it gets very meta, which I tend to enjoy.

Michelle Tea has novelised a period in her own life, when her life in San Francisco sunk to such a bad place that she felt her only way out was to move to LA. But that move doesn’t happen until halfway through the book, so the first half depicts her falling apart. It’s not a pretty story but Tea’s prose is funny enough that it manages to avoid being depressing.

Fictional Michelle’s main (though not only) problem is drugs. In the opening chapter we learn that, since writing a memoir that “glamorised her recreational drug intake”, Michelle has continued to party in San Francisco’s Mission neighbourhood, almost every night moving from alcohol to cocaine to alcohol to cannabis. She has balanced this with a job at a bookstore and a steady girlfriend to whom she is frequently unfaithful. She is at the centre of a subculture that she herself epitomises.

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