Yall! Michelle Tea is a hero and if you don’t already know her work go buy something she wrote right now and read it! Any of it will do although I especially love Against Memoir at the moment, one of her more recent books. She’s done so many beautiful things in so many realms - she is a rare artist who produces so much excellent writing herself and has also devoted SO MUCH TIME and has directed SO MANY RESOURCES toward supporting the work of countless other artists. So many heroes of mine (and probably yours) have been nurtured by her efforts! Her Aquarian spirit is to be celebrated, as are all her other spirits. Really happy to share her thoughts here with you today.
Michelle Tea is the author of numerous books, including Modern Tarot. Her recent essay collection, Against Memoir, is shortlisted for an award from PEN/America, and she is awaiting publication of the first book in her new children's astrology series, Astro Baby.
1. What brings you the most joy?
Reading books! In the morning I sit and drink coffee and read books on the couch with my son while he has his one hour of daily screen time. I live for it.
2. Do you identify with the Aquarian qualities of independence, rebellion, concerned with the collective, social, etc.? Do any of these feel challenging? If so how do you work with them?
I have always identified with classic Aquarian qualities because my point of view has always been a more radical one that challenges things. But what is strange is, having lived my life so long in more radical communities, I find myself wanting to rebel against a lot of radical dogma, because at the end of it all, dogma is just dogma and that Aquarian spirit is interested in freedom. Like, I went to bat defending bisexual-identified people on the internet the other day (because . . . okay, there is no good reason for fighting on the internet, actually) even though I agree that the 'bi' in 'bisexual' is problematic for enforcing the illusion of a gender binary. But I just felt like it was radical-cool people making bisexual people feel bad for not having the right lingo or something, and also being 47 and having seen a lot of bi-phobia it just reeked of that dressed up in more radical ideology. I am Aquarius in that I have always been drawn to radical points of view because they offer people the most freedom, but when those points of view become oppressive themselves it makes me feel reactionary. In general fighting on the internet is not the most effective and it leaves me feeling physically stressed out. I would rather let the work I do in the world reflect my larger, sometimes complicated values and leave it at that!
3. You have written a book on Tarot and so much of your work addresses social and political problems, even if at times through a personal lens. How much do you think of your writing as social or healing work? What responsibility do you think writing has toward healing?
If I am lucky, my writing has a social work component. I think it does, as it witnesses to certain experiences that have historically not been represented, or have a lot of myth and projection around it (queer stories, working class, sex work). I do think it can be healing to have your experience reflected back to you, and also can heal a persons misjudgements if their mind is open, so I love thinking that my work might have such capacity. It really depends on what the reader might need from it and bring to it. I don't think that writing has a responsibility to heal - I think that if you set out to have a specific effect on a readership you are setting yourself up. You have no control what people get from your work, and I also think that any artist's primary responsibility needs to be to their inspiration and ability. It can't be dictated by outside forces - that is propaganda. But artists are naturally sensitive and that quite often there is an authentic inspiration to speak to issues and scenarios that have the effect of healing or inspiring others. I mean that is the beauty and magic of art but I think that the effect has to be secondary to the inspiration.
4. How has becoming a parent changed your creative process and your relationship to your writing?
Well, I have far less time and I need a bit more money. So I say no to a lot of things because the COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS doesn't work, and I CANNOT BELIEVE I used that phrase, but it is true. My time is so scarce and I am working towards being the parent with the income and so there are lots of things I would have historically said yes to - I used to say yes to everything! - and I just can't anymore. And I believe in working for free - obviosly if there is money involved I want as much as I can have, but my experience has been that lots of really cool things happen without funding and it is important to me as an artist and person in the world to be involved with these things. I've never been a big ARTISTS NEED TO BE PAID person simply because I know the reality and often there is no money. I ask people to perform for free all the time! But I have to balance it out now, balance if it means missing a dinner and bedtime with my son, if it will take time away from paying projects or projects that mean more to me, stuff like that.
5. What and who currently offers you a sense of possibility for the future these days?
Well, I moved to Los Angeles to work in the film and television worlds, and I finally have managers and I swear they are offering me the biggest sense of possibility right now! It is so, so hard to break into this world and to have people who see you and believe in you working on your behalf is amazing. But this is just on a very self-focused and careerist front - my immediate personal future! But as for THE FUTURE? I am excited about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Beto O'Rourke, I am inspired by younger people who seem to have a very NBD/duh attitude toward gender and queerness. I am really scared about the literal fate of our literal one-and-only world and it makes me feel relief whenever I read an article about, like, scientists building city-sized air purifiers or designing packing material from mushrooms or creating machines to dredge the plastic from the ocean. These people, scientists and engineers who set out to tackle one of the issues that feed into climate disaster are my heroes.