cover image How to Grow Up

How to Grow Up

Michelle Tea. Plume, $16 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-14-218119-5

Tea has written memoirs (e.g., The Chelsea Whistle) about what it’s like to be “born broke, or weird, into tricky families and unsafe towns,” and now comes this tough, quirky volume from the “trembling hard-won perch of adulthood.” The story begins with Tea, age 37 in San Francisco, newly free of a ne’er-do-well ex-boyfriend and sober after nearly killing herself with drugs and alcohol, but living in a group house with “drug-addled 20-somethings cavorting naked through the hallways.” After deciding she would be a wreck if she turned 40 in that house, she claws her way out: first, she gets a job teaching writing, which she abandons to visit Paris; next, she finds a boyfriend who appears civilized but proves to be cruel; finally, she rents an apartment of her own, makes enough money to safely indulge in a $900 leather hoodie, and gets married to a happy woman. Tea’s memoir begins as a narrative, then becomes more of an essay collection. Chapters survey her personalized spirituality (“The Baddest Buddhist”) and her self-care through food (“Eat Me”). The overall feel is of a lecture delivered in the language of self-help: are you “walking on eggshells” in your relationship? This is messy, like Tea’s story, but the narrator is charming and dogged enough to make readers glad that both they and she stuck it out. Agent: Lindsay Edgecombe, Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. (Jan.)