Rose of No Man's Land
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Rose of No Man's Land

4.0 3
by Michelle Tea

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Fourteen-year-old Trisha Driscoll is a gender-blurring, self-described loner whose family expects nothing of her. While her mother lies on the couch in a hypochondriac haze and her sister aspires to be on The Real World, Trisha struggles to find her own place among the neon signs, theme restau­rants, and cookie-cutter chain stores of her hometown.


Fourteen-year-old Trisha Driscoll is a gender-blurring, self-described loner whose family expects nothing of her. While her mother lies on the couch in a hypochondriac haze and her sister aspires to be on The Real World, Trisha struggles to find her own place among the neon signs, theme restau­rants, and cookie-cutter chain stores of her hometown.

After being hired and abruptly fired from the most popular clothing shop at the local mall, Trisha befriends a chain-smoking misfit named Rose, and her life shifts into manic overdrive. A “postmillennial, class-adjusted My So-Called Life” (Publishers Weekly), Rose of No Man’s Land is brim­ming with snarky observations and soulful musings on contemporary teenage America.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher


"Rose [of No Man’s Land] is balls-out from the start . . . Not for the faint of heart, Tea’s writing is raw, funny, and tragic, but never forced. A-."—Entertainment Weekly (Editor’s Choice)

"It made me entirely happy to be alive . . . This book is deliriously true. To its author I say: You brought the female inside out. It’s such an incredible act. It feels like a first time . . . What a miracle of a book."—BookForum

Lenora Todaro
Tea creates war stories with herself as intrepid reporter. She is sometimes unreliable, with a perpetual chip on her shoulder and an open valve to righteous indignation when the moment calls it forth. There are clear similarities between Tea's memoirs and the protagonists here, with their wild-child ways and malaise. But with this novel, Tea moves forward into her imagination, reining in her story so it can buck free.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Tea follows up her Lambda Award-winning San Francisco prostitution memoir, Valencia (2000), her sporadically transcendent collected poems, The Beautiful (2003), and last year's graphic novel, Rent Girl (now in development for TV), with this inspired queer bildungsroman. In Trisha Driscoll, Tea has developed an unreliable narrator who stands on her own. Trisha is a doughy, alcoholic 10th-grade denizen of Mogsfield, Mass., a fictional white trash nowhere. Her father is long gone; her mother, owing to psychosomatic back problems, does not leave the couch; her mother's boyfriend, Donnie, enters the kitchen only to make ramen; her younger sister, Kristy, is obsessed with launching herself onto reality TV and constantly films the family dysfunctioning around her. The first half of the novel establishes Trisha's grim bedroom-to-mall despair. In the second, a new friend, Rose, a fry cook who looks 12-appears, and the two go on a crystal meth-fueled adventure with blissful highs and crashing lows. Tea is brilliant in making the stakes for Trisha abundantly clear as she discovers sex (and, concurrently, her sexuality), drugs and the emotional gains and losses attendant to each. Add in minor characters like the never-seen but oft-discussed Kim Porciatti and various dumb guys in cars, and you have a postmillennial, class-adjusted My So-Called Life. (Feb. 14) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Set in Massachusetts, first-time novelist Tea's coming-of-age story centers on 14-year-old Trisha Driscoll, a self-reliant girl who spends the bulk of her days daydreaming, reading, or listening to music alone in her room. When a young salesclerk at a trendy clothing store at the local mall attempts suicide and must stay out of work for a while to recuperate, Trisha, with encouragement from older sister Kristy, applies for and gets the job. Her first customer is Rose, another mall worker, who instantly demands Trisha's attention and respect. After getting fired on her first day, Trisha finds the restaurant where Rose works, and the pair develop a quirky, touching friendship that turns sexual and exposes Trisha to smoking, drinking, drugs, and tattoos. On the road of their crazy adventures, Trisha eventually finds her own voice. Gritty, animated, original, and disturbing, this allegorical tale of friendship and belonging is hard to put down. Recommended for adult and/or mature young audiences.-Lisa Nussbaum, formerly with Dauphin Cty. Lib. Syst., Harrisburg, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
San Francisco hipster-girl Tea pens a novel of teenage angst. Fourteen-year-old Trisha is a self-described loner, though that may be putting a positive spin on friendlessness. Her life in small-town Massachusetts is bleak: Trisha's mother is a shut-in, having spent the best chunk of Trisha's life lying on the couch, watching TV, fretting over imaginary illnesses. Her older sister Kristy has just finished cosmetology training at the vocational high school and is taping their home life so she can get on MTV's The Real World (Trisha's offended that she's being portrayed as an alcoholic-what's a few empty beer bottles by the bed?). Then there's Ma's boyfriend Donnie, a petty crook whose only redeeming quality is that he doesn't molest the girls. The novel follows one crazy day in Trisha's (up until now muted) life, beginning with a new job at the mall and ending with a tattooed portrait of her lesbian lover. With a bit of clever lying and borrowed clothes, Kristy finagles Trisha a job at clothing store Ohmigod!, filling in for teen queen Kim as she recovers from a suicide attempt. Trisha doesn't quite fit in and is fired by the end of the day. But no matter, she's befriended by Rose, a tough-talking, chain-smoking, shoplifting sprite of a girl who takes Trisha out for the night of her life. They hitchhike to Revere Beach where they score crystal meth from a pedophile dealer (the transaction requires a nude Polaroid of Rose as collateral against snitching), and as the two snort their way back home, they make out by the dinosaur at a miniature golf course, fish for change in the fountain at a Chinese restaurant and stop off at a tattoo parlor where Trisha commemorates the night with a tattoo ofRose on her arm. A big night for a 14-year-old. Although Trisha's initial musings on life are tediously mundane, as soon as Rose enters the picture, the novel takes off in a blur of speedy bliss. The novel shines with a kind of beatnik deference to drugs and lust and dangerous youth.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt


People always say to me that they wish they had my family. Like my family structure, or my lack of family structure or whatever. What they mean is, they wish they never had to go to school or clean their houses, or they wish they never got into trouble with their parents. Serious trouble, like when you get grounded or your favorite thing gets taken away and locked in a drawer somewhere. I guess they wish their parents didn’t give so much of a shit and since mine clearly do not give any sort of shit at all, they’re jealous. Really these people are massively wrong. It’s like when guys say, “Oh if I had tits I’d stay home and play with them all day, I’d never get out of bed.” Believe it or not I have actually heard my Ma’s boyfriend Donnie say this. I heard him say it with a mouth full of ham salad from Shaw’s, the pink mayonnaisey mush that he eats by the spoonful like a modern caveman. He doesn’t even bother to make a sandwich out of it and it’s not because he’s on one of the no-bread diets like my sister Kristy. Donnie just has a natural aversion to civilization. I’m surprised he doesn’t dig a stubby finger into the hammy glop and eat it like that, that’s how gross he is. Instead he shovels it into his mouth with a big silver tablespoon. I always know when Donnie’s been eating ’cause the sink is full of spoons. So Donnie said, just days ago, with his eyes on my mom’s boobs, “If I had tits I’d stay home and play with them all day, I’d never get out of bed,” and all the vowels were compromised by the ham salad tucked into his cheeks. The sort of funny thing is that all Ma does is lie around and fiddle with her boobs, but it’s because she’s a hypochondriac and she’s terrified she has breast cancer all the time. Whenever Donnie’s not around she’s flat on her back on the couch, her nightgown hiked up and the spectacle of her breasts splat on her chest, her hands meditatively rubbing the skin inch by inch, pressing, somber and focused like when she’d look through my and Kristy’s hair for bugs when we were little. So it was sort of ironic to hear Donnie say that to Ma of all people. Her summery nightgown does sort of showcase her boobs so it’s not like she doesn’t have some responsibility here. I thought the mere reminder that she had them would have made her hands fly nervously to case them for tumors, but instead she just smiled a weird, lazy smile at Donnie and gave him a slow-motion swat. I guess she liked it as most females enjoy it when their boyfriends make appreciative comments about their breasts. I have found that thinking about Ma like she’s just another girl in the world, like any of the girls going on about their boyfriends in the bathroom at school makes me less horrified that she is in fact my mother. When I start thinking of that word, mother, it’s when I can start to feel empty and panicky and filled with big scary nothing feelings. So mostly she is Ma, the girl on the couch, so afraid to be sick that she’s brought it onto herself, kept company in her make-believe illness by her food-eater boyfriend Donnie.

Ma says about Donnie: “At least he doesn’t bother you girls.” By “bother” she means “try to have sex with,” and she says it like we, me and Kristy, should drop to our knees and kiss the peeling linoleum and prostrate ourselves to the patron saint of creepy dudes for sending us such a winner. I think the biggest problem between me and my family (by which I mostly mean Ma, my mother, the girl on the couch) is we have really different standards. For example, I would like to think it’s a given that your mother’s boyfriend doesn’t try to have sex with you. I know that this isn’t always the case – look at the Clearys across the street. Their stepdad had actually been doing it with one of the older sisters until one of the younger sisters called the police I think and it was like the whole family got hauled away somewhere, I don’t know what happened to them. I don’t think they would put an entire family in jail for something like that, but the Clearys are gone, their house and the rumors left waiting for them. I would like to think that we do better than the Clearys, me and my family. I guess you could call me inspired. I’d like to think that you don’t just let creepy guys into the house, not ever, but to hear Ma talk about it, it’s a real crapshoot and the fact that Donnie hasn’t tried to get it on with me or my sister actually makes him a great man as opposed to simply not a criminal in that particular arena. Ma says I’m ungrateful and also unrealistic. That’s the part that gets me. I am ungrateful, it’s true. I’m not proud of it, but I don’t think that gratitude is something you can fake. I mean, people do. I see people being pretend grateful all the time, like at school, and I don’t know how they don’t just puke all over themselves from the toxic phoniness of it all. I think I’d rather be honestly ungrateful – realistic. I think I’m realistic. I hate when Ma tells me I’m not. We both think we’re being realistic, me and Ma, and only one of us can be living in what’s generally acknowledged as reality, and most of the time I’m pretty confident it’s me. But sometimes, like if I’m feeling particularly bad, she can trip me up with her insistence that I’m living in a dreamworld, and I start to consider that maybe Ma’s world is the real one. And that is a deeply spooky thought. That’s creepier than a hundred million Donnies all put together in one room eating a lifetime supply of ham salad from Shaws.

Meet the Author

MICHELLE TEA is the author of Valencia, The Chelsea Whistle, and Rent Girl. She lives in San Francisco.

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Rose of No Man's Land 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
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Madid12 More than 1 year ago
I picked up my copy of Rose of No Man's Land on a whim. I would suggest that if you are not a fan of satire or dark humor to stop reading this review right now and move on to another book. I walked into Barnes and Noble with my fifty dollar gift card bound and determined to find something none of my other friends had read before so that I could recommend this unheard of gem. However, this is not a book I would recommend to the majority of my friends. The book's concepts are so dark and its issues are so heavy that though I would consider its reading easy and quick I would never call it a "light read". The book focuses around the central character of Trisha and her attempt to find who she is and where she belongs in society. In the short period the book covers fourteen year old Trisha must deal with issues in determining her sexuality, deal with the guilt and temptation of robbery, deal with her psychotic out mom who can't keep and job and sleeps all day on the couch, all while struggling to keep and job and her friendship with the illusive Rose. Like I said before I would not recommend this to many of my friends but I do think it is a book that people should read. It opened my eyes to the troubles that many young girls are forced to deal with that I had never recognized. It sheds light on a society that many authors hide from. And it shows the complete honest and brutal truth of the slums and poverty that many families in America must face and thus the struggles that it causes for its members. This book is definitely for a mature audience. Parents unless you want to be bombarded with many questions I would suggest you keep this away from your children. I even think that many teenagers would struggle to grasp the main concepts I believe the writer is trying to convey. Overall though I cannot say that I enjoyed this read I definitely feel I am a more rounded person for it.