Churning through lovers, baggies, and bottles, writer Michelle Leduski runs for LA with the end of the world on her heels.
In 1999, San Francisco’s Mission District is rapidly gentrifying. The gritty glittering landscape of artists and radicals is gradually being supplanted by the sterile manufactured cool favored by dot-com boomers who spread like a fungus, displacing the neighborhood’s previous crop of displacers, to which Michelle belongs, “a tribe bound not by ethnicity but by other things—desire, art, sex, poverty, politics.” In what seems at first like a lightly fictionalized memoir, Tea (How to Grow Up, 2015, etc.) traverses ground familiar to readers of her previous work: booze, drugs, sex, protracted adolescence, and '90s queer culture. But as time destabilizes, we’re irresistibly sucked into an alternate universe where the byproducts of modern living cause illness and alienation, the natural world has been all but eradicated, poisonous mists roll off the Pacific, and compost-powered cars trace the roads. Michelle leaves the Mission and attempts to write about a relationship ruined through the slow decay of self-neglect but is constantly plagued by a memoirist’s fears of overexposing and harming those around her. While reality expands and collapses like a gasping lung and the Earth crumbles around her, Michelle digs at the emotional truth of a loss that feels like the end of everything. But, rather than succumb to apocalyptic depression as spectacles of hysteria and petty distractions continue to swirl around her, Michelle claws her way out of her spiral of self-destruction to face the end, clear-minded and resolute. 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.