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The Chelsea WhistleReview - The Chelsea Whistle
A Memoir
by Michelle Tea
Seal Press, 2002
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Sep 8th 2005 (Volume 9, Issue 36)

In this memoir of her first two decades, Michelle Tea relates the details of her life in Chelsea, a suburb of Boston. Her family was working class, and there was not a lot of money to spare. She tells of her parents' tumultuous marriage, their split, and her mother's remarriage. She talks about her relationships to boys, her early sexual explorations, her loss of virginity with a boyfriend, and her eventual identification as a lesbian. She talks about her love of rock music and her hanging around record shops and other alternative spaces in her neighborhood. She talks about her alcoholic step-father and her eventual accusation of his abuse of her and her sister. She talks about her friends and relatives, the births and deaths, the drug addictions, marriages, divorces, and affairs. She talks and talks and talks. What Tea's memoir lacks is insight or even a measured sense of priorities. She piles details on details, rambling on in what might be called a stream of consciousness or what might be called an lack of technique. Maybe some readers will enjoy her self-involvement, but I found this a very difficult book to finish. After about half way through this 330-page memoir, I lost my enthusiasm and curiosity for learning about Tea's life, and had to keep on pushing myself to go on for a few more chapters. Even though the revelations at the last part of the book are shocking, by the time that readers have reaches that stage, they may have stopped caring what happens. (It is notable that judging from the reader comments at Amazon.com, even many of those who also grew up in Chelsea found Tea's memoir less than gripping, although to be fair, some readers are very enthusiastic about the book. It is published by Seal Press, whose slogan is "By Women. For Women." so it is possible that female readers will find the book more worthwhile.)

 

2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Link: Seal Press

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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