Review: “Getting Knocked Up” by Michelle Tea


FUCK ME: A memoir of my (in)fertility, by Michelle The

We want things that we know will hurt us. We look for happy endings that we know are myths. And, sometimes, we seek integrity in the very institutions and traditions against which we have constructed our identities. Michelle Tea has dedicated her career to chronicling the desires, fears, and contradictions of contemporary urban American queer life, in genres as diverse as memoir, picture books, the occult, and fiction. Situating herself, her friends, and her lovers against the dystopian realities of inequality, the climate crisis, and the more interpersonal effects of capitalism, Tea’s candid examinations of addiction, pleasure, and belonging embodied and nurtured a subculture.

In her new memoir, “Knocking Myself Up: A Memoir of My (In)Fertility“, the nurturing impulse already evident in Tea’s work is made literal. A “challenge to the universe” turns into a dream, populated by friends and a devoted partner. What does it mean to “conjure a life and, in so doing, profoundly upset mine?” Tea asks. Tea interrogates every element of pregnancy – how to inseminate, with whom to inseminate, how to name a child, how and with whom to raise a child – with studious commitment. These questions underpin the values ​​that have shaped Tea’s life and work for decades: they are the building blocks of a community in which inherited forms, especially those of romance and kinship, are never taken for granted.

Tea brings her fierce and nuanced class analysis to what she calls the “labor industrial complex,” observing both the humor and the difficulty of navigating the artificial insemination industry as an aspiring parent in outside the heterosexual economic elite. Despite the skepticism that Tea and her partner, Orson, often encounter in the medical establishment (even in San Francisco’s progressive clinical landscape), “artificial” is far from an appropriate descriptor for what Tea and her community undertake. Their fiery deliberation, consideration, and collaboration provide a pattern of reproduction imbued with intentionality. For readers familiar with contemporary queer and trans politics of collectivity and self-determination, the tender specificity with which Tea approaches the making of babies will be a warm homecoming. For those who come to this book from other subcultures, tea is a guide to the worlds of embedded anti-capitalism, trans politics, and sex-affirming feminism, and offers a playbook for family building by someone with concurrent aspirations for family security and community care of gender. Tea has no difficulty with dissonance: it is a site of productivity, a place of humor and love for self-acceptance. “How the hell did I,” Tea asks, “- messy and poor, addicted and queer, slutty, weird, unstable – find myself here, in this real cottage, the one with a white picket fence, with a baby in my arms ?”


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