Review: ‘Knocking Myself Up’ by Michelle Tea

SAVING MYSELF: a reminder of my (in)fertility, by Michelle Tea


We want things that we know will hurt us. We chase happy endings that we know are myths. And sometimes we look for wholeness in the institutions and traditions against which we have built our identity. Michelle Tea has devoted her career to describing the longings, fears and contradictions of contemporary urban American queer life, in genres as broad as memoir, picture books, the occult and fiction. By pitting herself, her friends and her lovers against the dystopian realities of inequality, climate crisis and capitalism’s most interpersonal effects, Tea’s candid investigations into addiction, pleasure and connection have embodied and nurtured a subculture.

In her new memoir, “Knocking Myself Up: A Memoir of My (In)Fertility”the nurturing impulse already manifesting itself in Tea’s work is made literal. A “dare to the universe” turns into a dream, populated with friends and a devoted partner. What does it mean to “evoke a life and deeply upset mine in the process?” asks tea. Tea questions every element of pregnancy – how to inseminate, who to inseminate with, what to name a child, how and with whom to raise a child – with studious dedication. These questions underlie 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 applies her fierce and nuanced class analysis to what she calls the “Labor Industrial Complex,” observing both the humor and difficulty of navigating the artificial insemination industry as an aspiring parent outside of the heterosexual economic elite. Despite the skepticism Tea and her partner Orson often encounter in the medical world (even in San Francisco’s progressive clinic landscape), “artificial” is far from an appropriate description of what Tea and her community are doing. Their fervent deliberation, consideration and collaboration provides a model for reproduction steeped in intentionality. For readers familiar with today’s queer and trans politics of collectivity and self-determination, the tender specificity with which tea approaches baby-making will be a warm welcome. For those who come to this book from other subcultures, Tea is a guide to the worlds of integrated anti-capitalism, transpolitics, and sex-work-affirming feminism, providing a family-building script from someone with concurrent aspirations of family safety and genre-bending concern. Tea has no problem with dissonance: it is a place of productivity, a place of humor and loving self-acceptance. “How the hell did I,” Tea asks, “- messy and poor, hooked and strange, slutty, weird, unstable–land here, in this real little house, one with a white wooden gate, with a baby in my arms ?”

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