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Against Memoir: Complaints, Confessions & Criticisms

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  528 ratings  ·  82 reviews
Valerie Solanas, a lesbian gang, recovering alcoholics, and teenagers surviving at a shop: these are some of the figures populating America's borders. These essays include fights and failures and the uncovering of and documentation of these lives. Michelle Tea reveals herself through these stories.
300 pages
Published 2018 by The Feminist Press at the City University of New York
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Dannii Elle
It's 5am. I am jittery from all the coffee I've fed into my system in an attempt to stave off sleep and instead spend my moonlit hours on the more worthwhile pursuit of reading this book. I am forever changed.

This collection of personal anecdotes, journalistic pieces, wisdoms shared, and talks delivered are all centred around three topics - Art and Music, Love and Queerness, Writing and Life. Inside these topics lie a wealth of knowledge to be absorbed. I found myself lost to her conversational
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Michelle Tea may just have become one of my favorite contemporary essayists. Although about all we have in common is that we come from the working class and have a nagging dissatisfaction with the way the world is, I was riveted by these essays. Tea's rebellious youth, her analysis of her favorite-and not-so-favorite bands, the struggle of transgendered women to find a place in the gay/queer/lesbian community, Valerie Solanas' (the woman who shot Andy Warhol) manifesto SCUM: her takes on all of ...more
Sassafras Lowrey
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is probably my new favorite Michelle Tea book. If you're a writer you should read this. if you're queer you should read this. basically everyone should probably read this and it's easily in my top favorite books i've read so far this year. damn. this book is raw and brave and everything i would expect from Michelle Tea but even more!
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love Michelle Tea’s heart and fearlessness, the range of topics she addresses, and the insights she provides into LGBTQ/working class issues and lifestyles. An important voice--and she writes good too.
Michelle Tea has had quite a life. She's one of those raw-gritty-dirty writers that I find myself really appreciating and respecting because they've managed to overcome some super-shitty things and turn it all into quality writing. Originally I wanted to read Tea because she landed on some lists of hybridity in nonfiction that I have been looking at for school and I wanted to see what she was all about. This collection, sadly, was not in the realm of hybridity, per se, but I'm glad to have read ...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this - some of the essays/articles are short and a somewhat slighter and some are longer and totally amazing. The essay about the Hags was so great! Queerness, addictions, being outcast ... Stuff about Valerie Solanis and music. I felt like this book was written just
Viv JM
Michelle Tea is best known for her memoir writing. This book is basically a collection of memoirs in essay form. Which isn't to say it's not great; it is! Tea is funny, insightful and open and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This bedazzling collection of essays tackles a lot of heavy subjects, but with a light touch. Seamlessly blending personal history and politics, Tea examines a smorgasbord of (mostly) queer topics with curiosity, humor, compassion, and sharp-as-a-tack analysis. I devoured Against Memoir in two days, but will be thinking about it for years to come.
Cassie (book__gal)
(4.5) Michelle Tea, I love your brain. This book of essays are some of the most impressive works of contemporary essay I’ve read. And if you’re looking for essays that write about queerness, and queer love, in an accessible and perspicuous way, this is it. I learned so much. Tea is funny and brave and acutely self-aware. And now I want to start writing again.
chantel nouseforaname
There's something about women who just don't give a fuck that really appeals to me. It takes balls to not give a fuck. It takes recognizing your truths to not give a fuck. The way you perceive and interact with women on a whole, changes when you realize that they don't give a fuck. Especially when you think about how much we've been conditioned to give a fuck about so much fucking nonsense. It's something special when women reject that to focus on themselves, their lives, their loves. I think wo ...more
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My most frequent complaint about essay collections is that their contents are better read separately—in the most irritating instances, recycled anecdotes and statistics become distracting and upcoming rhetorical moves easily anticipated before they happen. Some internet thinkpieces should stay on the internet, especially if the writer only does a few flavors of essay.

This is decisively not how I feel about Michelle Tea's Against Memoir, which I tore through in a day and a half. The essays span t
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My review of Against Memoir is now up at 4Columns -- here's an excerpt:

The title of this collection is, in part, ironic—Tea is a tireless chronicler of her life and we are the lucky beneficiaries. But there’s sincerity, too: Against Memoir sees Tea lose faith in writing, only to regain it again and again. In the title essay, Tea poses the question of whether writing itself might be an addiction: “so similar does it feel, an ecstasy of communion with yourself that facilitates the transcendence o
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant collection of essays, parts of them are hard to read, trigger warnings for drug use, alcohol addiction, miscarriage and sexual assault. But they are so well written, there is anger because that seems to be the emotion women have all the time, but there is also humour and love. The prose zips with energy and vibrancy.

I am not doing this book justice so you’ll just have to read it yourself.
Sep 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: glbt
I have followed Michelle Tea's writing since the days of Adventure Girl and Sister Spit. I have always known that she was a capable writer who had a wild past, got sober, got married, had a kid and lived happily ever after. This book is a series of (mostly) autobiographical essays that go into further depth on all of those topics, as well as art, music, queerness, culture etc.
I particularly enjoyed her writings about Valerie Solanas, her days in Sister Spit, the HAGS, and the queer scene of the
May 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: lgbt, essay
A selection of essays on various themes, such as music, memoir writing, LGBT identity, fertility, etc. Some of these were very good: the opening one, particularly, on the subject of the author's own experience of sexual abuse, and her reading of Valerie Solanas. Some of them were interesting because of they discussed aspects of queer life in the US that were new to me. But overall, I found these essays repetitive, and that Tea's prose quickly becomes clunky and tiresome.
Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: just-because, 2020
Some funny and all thought-provoking. What else should an essay be?
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I think Michelle Tea’s writing is terrific, and this book includes great personal essays and reporting on specific subcultures that I couldn’t get enough of. Thanks Lauren for sending this my way - I gotta read Valencia finally.
Big Al
Nov 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Worth reading for the HAGS!
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
Continuing my queer reading adventures for the month of June, I found Michelle Tea's book of essays. Most of these have been published previously on xojane and other sites - some as far back as the early 2000's. It was a book that I found hard to get into at first, and that the longer I read, the more I appreciated it for exactly what it is (instead of looking for it to be Rent Girl redux).

As Katie Haegele writes on The Millions site, "Though this book shows how Tea’s work has developed from st
Catherine Barter
I loved this. Michelle Tea is such a good writer. I don't think there's one disappointing piece in here. The memoir stuff is great - she's had an interesting life and is insightful about her experiences, and is also able to get out of her own way to tell a story. But the more journalistic pieces were my favourite, especially the essays on Camp Trans and HAGS, which are like proper bits of documentary history. Michelle Tea is very good at exploring the complicated politics of certain cultural mom ...more
Georgina Bawden
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
"I'm feeling it, the purpose and point of our political writings, our personal struggles. It's not to change the world that can't or won't be changed. It's to leave traces of ourselves for others to hold on to, a lifeline of solidarity that spans time, that passes on strength like a baton from person to person, generation to generation."

That's Michelle Tea's justification for her lifetime of writing, across her lifetime, a span of which is collected here. I've loved her writing since coming acro
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Content note: transmisogyny

Not many spoons so not many words. I spent a lot of this book feeling tired and disappointed. Michelle still gives me moments where I want to cry because I feel so seen, but they’re so rare in this book and it wasn’t enough to stop it feeling like a slog. None of her books have felt like a slog for me to read before. (The gender essentialism in this one didn’t help - I see that she tried to acknowledge transmisogyny as a queer concern but the way this happened felt a l
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michelle Tea really does have one of those inimitable voices, and this book, a collection of non-fiction writings on everything from riot grrl, queer communities and the trans-exclusionary policy that tanked the Michigan Womyn's Musical Festival to her own relationships and addiction issues fizzles with the energy that makes Michelle's writing hers and no one else's.
Sarah Paolantonio
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
What an excellent collection of essays. Truth be told, I skipped over most of the first section 'Art & Music' either because the subject was so foreign to me it went in one ear and out the other or because I was bored by Tea's placement of herself onto something that's been done a thousand times before. The rest of the book was an extremely pleasant surprise.

I picked up this book because of its title, expecting it to be a memoir. I'm glad it wasn't. These essays are smart and informative on the
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: runaway
A fantastic collection of articles, essays and pieces- another great queer memoir that queers memoir. Each of the pieces is very different, which I personally really liked, but I can see that that might not be up everyone's street. Personally, I really loved the reporting-style of 'HAGS in Your Face', and the more personal pieces, as well as the reflection in 'Against Memoir'. I also really liked that I came out of reading it with a million and one things to look up- songs, films, books, people! ...more
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is my first Michelle Tea book, despite being aware of her important place in the queer literary canon. I really enjoyed this essay collection. The essays span from memoir to more journalistic pieces and I like that mix a lot. She's a great writer, able to pull off a lot of different things: heart-wrenchingly touching moments painted in lovely lyric sentences; short punchy paragraphs; hilarious anecdotes and musings. I love her brain. I'm also currently listening to Black Wave, and I'm getti ...more
Jessica Reuter
Michelle Tea has long been one of my favorite writers and perhaps she's my most beloved; I sink into her words, melt between the lines, am ravenous to devour anything she sends out into the ether. With that being said, I was absolutely spellbound by Against Memoir. It was the most perfect thing I could have read at this particular time in my life, and for that I am truly grateful. I sobbed ugly tears, heaved heavy sighs of understanding, laughed at the wit and insight with which all of her stori ...more
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was surprised by how much I liked this. I've read 3 of her novels, loved one and thought the others were just ok. Her essays are very insightful and nuanced, yet told in a conversational casual storytelling style. I was particularly impressed with the essay about the Michigan Women's Music Festival and how she managed to present many views and sides and to be sympathetic to most players while also taking her own stance. I also liked her essay about the HAGS, a group of people I would never be ...more
Matt Sautman
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Despite the name of this collection, this anthology of Tea's work serves primarily as a memoir that documents aspects of her life ranging from her time as a lesbian separatist whose life could have paralleled Valerie Solanas's to her trying to recreate the record collection she had as a teenager. Much of this work is excellent, but there are a few essays, like "HAGS in Your Face" that I find harder to sustain my engagement in. What's possible here is that these essays I didn't click with might b ...more
Emily Brown
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this collection of essays. I was lucky enough to see Tea read from it in Seattle a few weeks ago (she read from the piece "Polishness."). The essays are so captivating that I read most of the book in one day. I've long been a fan of Tea's work, especially her poetry and the novel Black Wave and spending a day soaking in her words was so lovely. Highlights include "Transmission from Camp Trans" about her time at the protest camp set up in response to the Michigan Womyn's Festival and its ...more
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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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