Michelle Tea (born Michelle Tomasik, 1971) is an American author, poet, and literary arts organizer whose autobiographical works explore queer culture, feminism, race, class, prostitution, and other topics. She is originally from Chelsea, Massachusetts and currently lives in Los Angeles. Her books, mostly memoirs, are known for their views into the queercore community.
Spoken word and magazine writing
Tea was the co-founder of the Sister Spit spoken word tour. She has toured with the Sex Workers' Art Show alongside Ducky DooLittle and others. She is also a contributor to The Believer magazine and was the co-writer of the weekly astrology column, Double Team Psychic Dream with astrologer Jessica Lanyadoo, in the San Francisco Bay Guardian newspaper.
In 2012 Tea partnered with City Lights Publishers to form the Sister Spit imprint.
From 2012 to 2015 Tea wrote a column for XOJane where she chronicles the difficulties she is facing trying to have a baby with her partner Dashiell. Her articles document the stress and difficulty that accompanies fertility treatments and artificial insemination, and additionally illuminates gaps that exist for queer couples in a system that was created with heterosexual couples in mind.
Michelle Tea founded Radar Productions in 2003 and served as their Creative Director for many years. A non-profit based in San Francisco, Radar Productions produces a number of literary-based projects in the Bay area and beyond.
Tea stepped outside her work as a writer to serve as the Executive Producer of Valencia: The Movie. Based on her novel of the same name, the experimental film was spearheaded with filmmaker Hilary Goldberg. Valencia was filmed by 20 different lesbian, queer and trans directors, each assigned a different chapter of her novel. The twenty one different ‘Michelle’ characters “vary in age, gender, size, ethnicity, style and era”.
Her experiences trying to conceive and preparing for parenthood led her to start the website Mutha Magazine, an alternative mothering/parenting website that caters to those parents that do not identify with mainstream parenting media. Of the project she says “I think there are a lot of women who get pregnant and have babies but they're not part of this cultural traditional ideas of what it means to be a mom and they're not interested in the media that's already out there.”
In February 2008, Tea was the 23rd Zale Writer-in-Residence at the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College Institute at Tulane University. She did not go to college and, in interviews, has discussed the assumption that she has studied.
While touring together in the year 2000, Tea and writer Clint Catalyst came up with the idea to solicit first-person narratives for their 2004 anthology Pills, Thrills, Chills and Heartache. Described by Publishers Weekly as a "celebrat[ion of] the avant-garde," the book, which includes work by JT Leroy, Dennis Cooper, and Eileen Myles, reached #10 on the Los Angeles Times non-fiction paperback bestseller list in its first week of release. Moreover, the book was a 2004 Lambda Literary Awards finalist in the Anthologies/Fiction category. Indeed, her books have won a nomination in the competition virtually every year since her Valencia won for best Lesbian Fiction in 2000.
She was awarded the Jim Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelists' Prize by the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in 2008.
- The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl in America (1998) ISBN 1-57027-074-0
- Valencia (2000) ISBN 1-58005-035-2
- The Chelsea Whistle (2002) ISBN 1-58005-073-5
- The Beautiful (2003) ISBN 0-916397-89-0
- Rent Girl (2004) ISBN 0-86719-620-3
- Rose of No Man's Land (2006) ISBN 1-59692-160-9
- Transforming Community (2007) ISBN 0-9789023-4-3
- Coal to Diamonds: A Memoir (2013) ISBN 0-385525915 (with Beth Ditto)
- Mermaid in Chelsea Creek (2013) ISBN 1-938073363
- How to Grow Up: A Memoir (2015) ISBN 0-142181196
- Girl at the Bottom of the Sea (2015) ISBN 1-940450004
- Black Wave (2016) ISBN 1908276908
- Pills, Thrills, Chills, and Heartache: Adventures in the First Person (ed. with Clint Catalyst) (2004) ISBN 1-55583-753-0
- Without A Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class (ed.) (2004) ISBN 1-58005-103-0
- Baby, Remember My Name: An Anthology of New Queer Girl's Writing (ed.) (2006) ISBN 0-7867-1792-0
- Sister Spit: Writing, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road (ed.) (2012) ISBN 0-87286-566-5