A dreamlike, dystopian meditation on sobriety, adulthood, and the obligations of storytelling.
It's 1999—and Michelle's world is ending.
Desperate to quell her addiction to drugs, disastrous romance, and nineties San Francisco, Michelle heads south for LA. But soon it's officially announced that the world will end in one year, and life in the sprawling metropolis becomes increasingly weird.
While living in an abandoned bookstore, dating Matt Dillon, and keeping an eye on the encroaching apocalypse, Michelle begins a new novel, a sprawling and meta-textual exploration to complement her promises of maturity and responsibility. But as she tries to make queer love and art without succumbing to self-destructive vice, the boundaries between storytelling and everyday living begin to blur, and Michelle wonders how much she'll have to compromise her artistic process if she's going to properly ride out doomsday.
"A Gen-X queer girl's version of the bohemian counter-canon." —New York Times
"Events, though outlandish, are narrated with total conviction, and powerfully express the intensity both of attaining sobriety and of the writing process." —The New Yorker
"Gliding deftly through issues of addiction and recovery, erasure and assimilation, environmental devastation and mass delusion about our own pernicious tendencies, this is a genre- and reality-bending story of quiet triumph for the perennial screw-up and unabashed outsider. A biting, sagacious, and delightfully dark metaliterary novel about finding your way in a world on fire." —Kirkus (starred review)
"In Tea's skillfully loose, lusty prose, Michelle is both vulnerable and brash, blitzing through lovers and bags of heroin, terrified but also convinced of her own invincibility... [A]n important portrait of the late '90s." —Publishers Weekly
"It’s this rawness that makes Black Wave so disarming, a rollicking hallucinatory fantasy that’s as sobering as cold air. . . .It’s sentimental and reckless and not quite like anything I’ve read before. An apocalypse novel that makes you feel hopeful about the world: could anything be more timely?" —The Guardian
"A philosophical meditation on the end times, complete with suicides, protests, magical dreams, and Matt Dillon.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“The prose is fucking gorgeous, the characters are hilarious and upsetting and miserable, the world is heart-stopping in its strangeness and bleak crawl to the edge of the cliff, then its tumble over the edge.” —Tor.com
"Out of a messy, scabrous delve into the personal, Tea has created something uncomfortably funny and bleakly gorgeous." —New Statesman
"[L]yrical but blunt, capturing her narrator's duel hopelessness and genuine desire for a life full of love and promise. . . .this book exists in a new kind of literary ecosystem—one that doesn't need to fit neatly into the structures of an older era." —BUST
“A love letter to literature’s lasting power and the ability of writing to save one’s future. . . . If the world is going to end, then Tea’s way out isn’t so bad.” —SF Chronicle
"I was unable put to Black Wave down, suddenly afraid and unsure of what was out there beyond my reading. This bad fairytale-come-true is destabilizing and palpable, and it’s Michelle Tea’s most fearless book. It’s a radically honest, scary, and wonderful place that Michelle has spun. It shook me up." —Eileen Myles, author of Chelsea Girls
"Scary, funny and genre-bending—a mind-blowing meta-poem—Black Wave is Michelle Tea's most ambitious, complex, and imaginative work so far. An investigation of addiction's apocalypse, it's somehow wonderfully strange, daring, and dirty and yet completely universal and true." —Jill Soloway, creator of Transparent
“Listen up: it’s the end of the world and Michelle Tea is the best writer to be with. She’s got the smarts and the laughs, the sharpness and the love, the grit and the skin and the ink she needs to see us through. I’m sticking with her until there’s nothing left.” —Daniel Handler, author of We Are Pirates
“I worship at the altar of this book. Somehow Michelle Tea has managed to write a hilarious, scorching, devastatingly observed novel about addiction, sex, identity, the 90s, apocalypse, and autobiography, while also gifting us with an indispensable meditation on what it means to write about those things—indeed, on what it means to write at all. A keen portrait of a subculture, an instant classic in life-writing, a go-for-broke exemplar of queer feminist imagination, a contribution to crucial, ongoing conversations about whose lives matter, Black Wave is a rollicking triumph.” —Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
Interested in reading this book with a group? Download group discussion questions here!