“Someday she would be dead — as would all the people in her books, their petty problems evaporated — but this book would exist, the most holy object in the world, a book. All their dumb lives were elevated for it. Even a book like Michelle’s, a small book read by few. It didn’t matter. She had rendered them cinematic in their small lives. Really everyone should be grateful” (142).
I’m back with another book review from my plentiful shelves! Somehow I managed to take more than a month long break on these posts. I read a lot during this time, but most of the books were library books (I’ll do some kind of round up on those) and the one book that I own that I started to read, a collection of Charles Dickens’ Christmas stories, I didn’t finish. But I’m back and chipping away at all those books I’ve owned but never read. This week, I’m going to talk about Black Wave by Michelle Tea.
I’ve had this book for almost a year now. I first came across it in February of last year when I was attending the AWP conference in Washington, DC. I stopped at the table for Feminist Press (a publishing house that seeks to amplify feminist perspectives, you should probably check them out), and I looked at the books they had on the table. I was really intrigued by this book, Black Wave. The cover design was beautiful (I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but here we are), and I read the description and was immediately intrigued. The woman at the table looked at me holding it and said “This book made me break up with my boyfriend. You really should read it.” I thought, wow, that must be quite the book. But then I put it back down and made a note of it in my phone in case I decided that I wanted to go back to the table and buy it.
Fifteen or twenty minutes later, I was walking down the aisles of the conference, and I realized I couldn’t stop thinking about this book. I mentioned to my friends that I was still feeling pulled to buy it, and they both told me that it probably meant I should go back and buy it right away.
So I did. The woman at the table laughed and remembered me and I told her she must be an excellent salesperson because I couldn’t stop thinking about the book after we left.
Black Wave follows main character Michelle (no it is not a memoir, it is fiction) and her life in the Mission in San Francisco in the 1990s. Her neighborhood is slowly becoming more and more gentrified, and she goes through a series of bad relationships and issues with drugs. She has a published memoir and works in a bookstore while she struggles to find out what to write about next. Eventually, she decides to move to Los Angeles,where her brother lives, for a fresh start.
In the background, waves of extinction and concerning weather foreshadow the end of the world. Things get a little bit crazy — after the apocalypse has been officially predicted, humans begin dreaming about would-be lovers and then utilizing Craigslist to find them in real life. The future, dreams, and reality become a bit muddled as the world begins to end.
I’ve been putting off writing this review because I don’t really know how to talk about this book. It was completely different than anything I’ve ever read before. I loved all of the characters — Michelle’s roommates and girlfriends, her brother, the boy she worked with at the bookstore after she moved to LA, the owners of that bookstore and how they reacted to the imminent end of the world. The narrative is pretty straightforward in the first section in San Francisco and then gets a bit wacky once Michelle arrives in LA, and I really loved the way that played out.
I think that this book was an interesting meditation on relationships and their affects on the people in them. (SPOILER) The straightforward narrative collapses in the second half of the book as a bad relationship collapses (or so I assume, since there isn’t much of the relationship on the page). For Michelle in Black Wave, the end of the world comes literally as it could come figuratively at the end of a relationship in real life.
Long story short, I really loved this book, and I’m happy that I finally got around to reading it. It’s definitely a great read and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s looking to read something unique and intelligent.
You can find out where to buy Michelle Tea’s book Black Wave here.
Thanks for stopping by!