The Chelsea Whistle: A Memoir by Michelle Tea
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Seal Press; 2nd edition (April 15, 2008)
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Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: Seal Press; 1st Seal Press Ed edition (August 2, 2002)
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In this gritty, confessional memoir, Michelle Tea takes the reader back to the city of her childhood: Chelsea, Massachusetts a place where time and hope are spent on things not getting any worse. Tea's girlhood is shaped by the rough fabric of the neighborhood and by its characters the soft vulnerability of her sister Madeline and her quietly brutal Polish father; the doddering, sometimes violent nuns of Our Lady of Assumption; Marisol Lewis from the projects by the creek; and Johnna Latrotta, the tough-as-nails Italian dance-school teacher who offered a slim chance for escape to every young Chelsea girl in tulle and tap shoes. Told in Tea's trademark loose-tongued, lyrical style, this memoir both celebrates and annihilates one girl's tightrope walk out of a working-class slum and the lessons she carries with her. With wry humor and a hard-fought wisdom, Tea limns the extravagant peril of a dramatic adolescence with the private, catastrophic secret harbored within the walls of her family's home a secret that threatens to destroy her family forever.
From Publishers Weekly
"Childhood is morbid," declares Tea, author of the Lambda Award-winning Valencia, in this gritty girlhood memoir. As a kid, she perfected the art of playing dead. In her teens, she was deep into Goth-black lipstick and lace, her hearse-driving boyfriend and other grim reaperesque fashions. In lush detail, she describes growing up on the other side of the tracks in the Boston suburb of Chelsea. Her alcoholic father abandoned the family, and her mother was overworked. Tea longed to possess cool clothes, experimented with drinking and drugs, had sex with boys and then with girls. Recounting these bits leads to an obsession with proving that her stepfather had bored holes in the house's bathroom and bedroom doors so he could spy on Tea and her sister when they were growing up. However, his confession isn't exactly gratifying; Tea wishes he had actually "grabbed" her, wishing for the "indisputable trespass of a hand," which would have made her the unarguable victim of sexual abuse. Tea finally walks out of her mother's house for good, proclaiming herself not a woman but "some new girl, an orphan." The writing is well-honed (e.g., Tea describes her father extracting lobster meat as "pulling fingers from a glove"), and the image of the "Chelsea whistle" is poignant ("the boys it meant to call were the boys I would need to be saved from"). However, the book's starts and stops, coupled with a disappointing ending make her account ultimately unsatisfying.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Tea's memoir of growing up poor and white on the East Coast in the 1970s and '80s begins with her playing at being dead with her cousin and sister. Death and a sort of stagnant life in death were pretty much what this aging, "graffitied" working-class suburb of Boston had to offer its inhabitants. Tea's formative years aren't unusual, given her class background or the time. Her parents are divorced, and soon after their separation, her father, whose upbringing has left him completely unprepared to relate to his wife and daughters, deserts the family. Tea's biography is her attempt to explore the truth of her childhood, including incest. What makes it remarkable is her flair for description and her ability to recall vividly the indignities of her childhood. Tea has written a powerful and useful narrative for other incest survivors. June Pulliam
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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