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Black Wave

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,453 ratings  ·  243 reviews
"Wild, wickedly funny, and refreshingly relevant."—Elle

"Raucous . . . [and] unapologetically raw."—New York Times

It's 1999 in San Francisco, and as shockwaves of gentrification sweep through Michelle's formerly scruffy neighborhood, money troubles, drug-fueled mishaps, and a string of disastrous affairs send her into a tailspin. Desperate to save herself, Michelle sets out
Paperback, 176 pages
Published January 12th 2016 by City Lights Publishers
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3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,453 ratings  ·  243 reviews

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Jenny (Reading Envy)
Wow, this book! It starts in San Francisco in the 1990s, focused on drug culture and queer culture. Originally I wasn't going to read this book because I have no reference point for drug culture and it always feels so foreign to read about it. But I started seeing some discussion of it and decided to give it a try. One chapter in, I was impressed by the vivid language but still not convinced.. then I got to the first sentence of chapter 2 and I was hooked.
"That afternoon Michelle woke up on her
Sean Barrs the Bookdragon
-A review copy was sent to me from Disclaimer Magazine in association with And Other Stories. The original review was posted here.

The Review:


In this wanton riot of individuality, we hear the story of a struggling author who works in a book shop by day and experiments with hard drugs for artistic inspiration by night.

Michelle Tea writes in a fast edgy style that reflects the nature of her character; it is chatty, modern and slightly eccentric. The protagonist, also named Michelle, lives a life w
Lark Benobi
Reading this novel is like leaping from rock to rock across a rushing river when you're not sure there is any way to get all the way across or if instead you're just going to tumble in and get carried downstream. Fearless, propulsive motion. Liquid language that tumults forward. A collapse between writer, narrator, and reader that feels physical and actual, not metafictional and theoretical. It left me breathless and exhilarated.
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Wow. I don't know what just happened - this book contains so many things I normally hate (extensive descriptions of drug use, long dream sequences, a hipper than thou setting, a self-consciously post-modern approach to narrative )- and yet I loved it, couldn't put it down and hovered on the brink of 5 stars before settling on 4.5. Kudos Ms. Tea. I thought Black Wave was going to be this year's How Should A Person Be or Ban en Banlieue, each of which took the memoir-novel-feminist-pomo-hipster sl ...more
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the stranger books I have read it won't be for everyone but I absolutely loved it.
Funny, ultra-imaginative and completely unique. A crazy mash-up of autobiography, meta-fiction, sci-fi, existentialism, memoir, 90's nostalgia, and apocalyptic fiction. This was my first Michelle Tea book, and I loved it!
This is one of those books that I would have never picked up if left to my own devices. Silly Me! Even when Black Wave came up as a Buddy Read for my Newest Literary Fiction group, I shunned it. Goodreads reviews got posted and still I dallied. What propelled me to actually get off my rump and get this book was its inclusion on the Tournament of Books shortlist.

Black Wave is an apocalyptic novel written in two parts:

The first part is set in San Francisco’s Queer sub-culture. It highlights the m
I'm blown away by this book, which is a new kind of autofiction/anti-memoir/whatever/yes. Black Wave is simultaneously vintage Michelle Tea and something wholly new, even futurist. It’s a retelling of Michelle Tea's past as, or through, fiction (“fiction”)—and as a painful history that has to die. The sardonic flippancy of her earlier memoirs is here, but there’s an edge to it, self-loathing creeping through in the use of a detached, ironized third person point of view. It’s a sobriety narrative ...more
Paul Fulcher
One girl was doing an art project in which she documented herself urinating on every SUV she encountered.


I took out a subscription to support the wonderful press And Other Stories, publishers of such great books as the BTBA winning Signs Preceding the End of the World, the Goldsmith's shortlisted Martin John, Swimming Home and The Folly.

One issue with this model is that one doesn't have any discretion over the books included, and the first book, with my name printed in the back with the
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Black Wave is possibly the most fearless and daring book of Michelle's career. It’s a novel with clear autobiographical roots but with a twist of apocalypse and reinvention. As always, Tea’s prose is visceral and close-up, burrowing under your skin. But it also drifts back, getting a wider view of the full story as the book’s hero, also named Michelle, leaves behind the bittersweet good times of her San Francisco identity (shout-out to The Chameleon poetry bar) and moves to Los Angeles (shout-ou ...more
Joachim Stoop
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites

What to say, what to say?

Imagine a Jackson Pollock painting. You love or hate it. That's one thing.
Secondly, nobody can do a better job at painting a Jackson Pollock-like painting than Jackson Pollock.

I had the same thing with Black wave. This book -feral, messed-up, extreme as it is- could not have been written any better than it was by Michelle Tea. Her ink is splattering, her voice so present and personal, her metaphors wild yet hitting your harder and softer spots. From the first to the l
For most of my reading life, I have consciously avoided feminist and LGBTQ literature, finding the former too strident for my taste and the latter too foreign to my life experience to relate to. That I drew most of my TBR list from the New York Times Book Review did nothing to counter this tendency. Since joining the Goodreads community and, more specifically, such groups as Newest Literary Fiction and The Tournament of Books, however, I have begun to expand my readerly horizons and have fallen ...more
Oct 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2016
Well this was interesting. I love Michelle Tea. I've seen her perform or read like 4 times. I've got signed copies of Rent Girl and Chelsea Whistle and Rose of No Man's Land as well as a huge signed photograph of her running with a popsicle hanging in my living room. But despite all the rave reviews her newest title is getting, I had a lot of trouble getting into Blackwave. It honestly started out just like all her memoirs and most of her fiction, obviously about her life even when its thinly ve ...more
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
part memoir, part writing process tell-all, part sci-fi, part political/social commentary, part gender study, part love song to life, messy life — full fucking genius.
Сначала появились вопросы к составителям шорт-листа ToB, потом я прочитала "об авторе" в профиле на гудридз, и вопросы исчезли. Oh, the desire to be in print. Oh, those pressing issues.

(надо уже завести полочку для книг, которые прочёл процентов на 10-20 и можешь честно аргументировать, почему дальше читать не станешь никогда, этакое "don't want to read" вместо "want to read")
Oct 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Along with Tea's usual whip-smart social analysis and sly humor, Black Wave delivers a goodly dose of something I can only call Wisdom. As a bonus, readers are treated to lushly complex (and sometimes baroquely hallucinatory) prose and plot. This will definitely join the canon of Great Queer Literature and be read for decades, perhaps centuries, to come.
Sian Lile-Pastore
I've loved reading Michelle Tea since the early 2000s.... I've written in review here before about how I felt that she was a kindred spirit. I love how she writes, what she writes about - the books, the drinking, astrology and tarot (she has a new tarot book coming out soon!). But then I haven't felt so connected to her young adult books and had mixed feelings about her memoir.

So. I went into this with trepidation. It starts kinda regular Michelle Tea - it's San Francisco in 1999 - drugs, drink
Feb 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sex, drugs, Matt Dillon, and the end of the world. I'm going to be thinking about this one for a while, trying to understand how Michelle Tea made me care so tenderly for such an effed-up character.
Oct 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
this was the perfect book to read in dystopian 2016 where it feels like all the good people are dying to spare them the coming environmental apocalypse and you're kinda nostalgic about your misspent queer youth but also keenly aware of how horrible it was. i kept grabbing markers from my bed and floor to underline quotes that were so great i needed to remember them. this book made me feel very "seen" in a weird way. i read a lot and most books require a certain amount of adjusting to relate to t ...more
D. H.
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fictional memoir in which the author makes herself a character, similar to Paul Theroux's My Other Life, but with elements that cast every event in the story in doubt. (view spoiler) As a result, there are no factual truths, only emotional ones.

The author dro
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: orgasmic
I love Michelle Tea, she is one of the greats. This felt like an exploration of her earlier novel/memoirs from a new perspective, where she is now i guess, and it is raw and beautiful and funny.
Dec 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is so, so clever. It’s sharp, it’s darkly funny, and unapologetically queer as hell. It’s the ultimate cleanse after spending way too much time around straights. So, so good.
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. I don't think I'd ever have stumbled onto this book without the Tournament of Books 2017. Thanks ToB! While there were bits and pieces that didn't totally add up for me (like Michelle suddenly going quantum on a couple of relationships once she got to LA) 95% of it hit me just right, including the memoir-ish approach, author Michelle's gentle, affectionate irony toward the trainwreck that is character Michelle and most of her friends, the meta-ness of the sections in LA, and her depic ...more
Sassafras Lowrey
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
By far one of the best books I've read this year and I hesitate to say this but, perhaps Michelle Tea's finest work. Really stellar book, hard, brutal, heartbreaking, infatuating, brilliant. I read this book in just a couple of days on subways, bathtubs, and when I was supposed to be writing. Scary and queer, I really can't recommend it enough.
Madeline Henry
I feel really bad about not liking this book, but it was just a clusterfuck.
I was not sure I was going to like Black Wave. It was a contender in the 2017 Tournament of Books. I had listened to an interview with Michelle Tea on the Otherppl podcast. So I took the plunge. She has written and/or edited 14 books. This one, like several earlier ones, is a mashup of memoir and fiction with a meta-fiction section in the middle. I guess you could call it experimental. I was surprised by it and it worked for me.

The first section is set in San Francisco. Michelle writes about he
Michael Livingston
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This started out like every other thinly-fictionalised confessional novel of someone's drugged up twenties, before morphing into a meta-fictional dystopic romp. The writing is smart and lyrical, the tangents Tea wanders down are usually entertaining, and the whole thing is a fascinatingly hard to classify book.
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
I got about halfway through, and I’m just not enjoying this. It seems very self-indulgent. There isn’t much here but a lot of sex and drugs and some allusions to the world going bad. Just not enough here to keep me listening.
Nov 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopia, glbtq, memoir
One of the best things Michelle Tea has written in years, maybe her best work since Valencia. Like her first three prose books (Passionate Mistakes, Valencia and The Chelsea Whistle), Black Wave is a unique hybrid of memoir and fiction, and this time Tea has pushed the boundary even further to a metaphysical level, challenging our notions of authorship, narrative and reality. Like all her books it is hysterically funny and brutally honest and magically weird. And I can't think of a better book t ...more
Rebekah Gordon
Long and weird, dreamy and different from anything else I've read. There are so many things that shouldn't have worked (the mix of memoir and ~sci-fi, the way that the main character's dialogue Capitalized Every Word while everyone else spoke in italics, the 4th wall breaking and layers of meta fiction, the "everyone has a soulmate" cheesiness), but somehow she balanced perfectly between self-importance and self-deprecation in a way that was extremely charming. Probably a 4 or 4.5 stars for me, ...more
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Tournament of Books: This topic has been closed to new comments. Black Wave 74 165 Mar 16, 2017 12:05AM  
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Michelle Tea (born Michelle Tomasik) is an American author, poet, and literary arts organizer whose autobiographical works explore queer culture, feminism, race, class, prostitution, and other topics. She is originally from Chelsea, Massachusetts and currently lives in San Francisco. Her books, mostly memoirs, are known for their views into the queercore community. In 2012 Tea partnered with City ...more
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“It is so hard for a queer person to become an adult. Deprived of the markers of life's passage, they lolled about in a neverland dreamworld. They didn't get married. They didn't have children. They didn't buy homes or have job-jobs. The best that could be aimed for was an academic placement and a lover who eventually tired of pansexual sport-fucking and settled down with you to raise a rescue animal in a rent-controlled apartment.” 4 likes
“Being cast out of society early on made you see civilization for the farce it was, a theater of cruelty you were free to drop out of. Instead of playing along you became a fuckup. It was a political statement and a survival skill.” 4 likes
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