TRACE ELEMENTS OF RANDOM TEA PARTIES by Felicia Luna Lemus

TRACE ELEMENTS OF RANDOM TEA PARTIES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A fiercely independent Chicana lesbian navigates the pleasures and perils (mostly the latter) of the Los Angeles dating scene.

Leticia Torrez pulls free of her overbearing Nana and her own diffident quietude and tries to spread her wings. Unapologetically gay—little in the way here of tearful coming-out scenes or adolescent wrestling with the am-I-or-aren’t-I? question—Leticia just wants to find love. Putting her film degree to good use working at a dog-grooming salon, Leticia makes a big mistake with Edith, a drama-queen from Frisco with a penchant for quietly psychotic behavior and big scenes. Seemingly better, at first, is K, with whom Leticia has a love-at-first-sight moment at a party but takes a frustratingly long time to make any headway with. The author’s normally powerful sense of description fails her with K, who should be the vibrant character here but comes across fuzzily, with a few exceptions: “Turns out the pills were homeopathic decongestants . . . I found it almost scarier to realize that instead of being a junkie, K had a crunchy streak.” The two connect, move into a nice little house together, and everything seems to be going swimmingly. Only it’s not, because all this time newcomer Lemus is looping forward, backward and around in time, visiting Leticia’s childhood, her college years, scatterings of events from her young life, and her guilty relationship with Nana. It’s all seen through the girl’s compelling manner of outward strength and inner insecurity, and it’s related in a style warm and liquid—easy to slide right into. The story also traces a smart portrait of LA lesbian life, where there’s a depressing lack of good bars to go to, and the usually strong sense of subculture unity seems always to be on the verge of coming unglued due to bickering and breakups.

Spry debut from a writer who’s got the skills but needs to set her sights on bigger things.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-374-27856-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2003