Previous to reading The Chelsea Whistle, I’d attempted a memoir by a smothered-but-privileged writer. This history of Tea’s youth soared where that failed.
It’s all those adjectives given to books that end up written by a mom in the midwest–raw, gritty, real, hopeful–but this one’s real. It’s the brutality of childhood that we all experience, the confusion of adolescence, the disillusionment of young adulthood. It’s climbing into a forbidden creek and seeking validation from a psychic teahouse in Boston, neon costumes and pop-punk anthems that give you a glimpse of a world beyond Chelsea, a string of loser boyfriends before convincing yourself that you’ve fallen in love with the most beautiful flapper-girl-artist ever, a bad high at the first Lollapalooza, rejecting and then uniting with your sister over shared abuse. The end has been construed as depressing by some, but it’s not, when you realize this is only the beginning of her life in print. (It continues with The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl in America, Rent Girl, and Valencia).
So beautiful and ugly that it hurts, Tea’s memoir is for those who want a true slice of life, a coming-of-age of a queer feminist force of nature.
Thanks, Rie! You can find more of her reviews at friendofdorothywilde.blogspot.com!