Review: Black Wave by Michelle Tea

As a working-class writer, Michelle Leduski is caught in the daily grind of trying to earn enough to survive and also take care of her friends who are in similar circumstances. She’s in San Francisco in the first half of the novel, where she lives in a house with several friends who pool resources to buy necessities and drugs. It’s a happy enough existence, although the realities of living on the edge are always present, what with the world supposedly ending and all. When she breaks up with her longtime girlfriend, Michelle is faced with the end of her world, both metaphorical and actual, and grabs onto the idea of writing again as an act of salvation. She cannot do it in San Francisco though, so she eventually makes her way to Los Angeles.


She must build a new support system, even though her brother lives in the city, and find an actual paying job, one that will allow her to pursue her survival through writing. It’s in this second half of the story where Michelle (the protagonist who is also the author) finds the room of her own where she can both earn a living and write her way out of the world’s collapse. Her heartache and substance abuse manifest through dystopian themes in the novel, which only clarify as the apocalypse looms.


“Black Wave” is witty and incisive, visceral and delirious. Michelle Tea redefines autobiographical fiction by paring it down to its emotional core and dressing it back up as a work of beauty that never loses sight of the balances an artist must achieve in order to both create and to survive. And the cameo appearance by Matt Dillon is just icing on the delicious cake.




eriksBooks and films are Erik Swallow’s passion, and he especially loves great stories, in either medium, where any of his identities (feminist, queer, anarchist) intersect.

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