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Michelle Tea Gets The Tea From … Sassafras Lowrey

Listen to how author Sassafras Lowrey’s bio begins on hir website: “Sassafras Lowrey is a teenage runaway who grew up to become the 2013 winner of the Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Award.” If that doesn’t make you love hir a little right on the spot, hir books will. Lost Boi reimagines the Peter Pan story as a queer/trans/kink Neverland (and who says that’s not what J.M. Barrie was going for anyway, amirite?)

Roving Pack is set in a sober, genderqueer punk house in Portland, Oregon, and Kicked Out is composed of artful and raw first-person narratives by folks kicked out of their homes for being queer. A Little Queermas Carol is a leather take on the classic, homey holiday tale, and you can find out what other stories ze’s currently spinning by reading hir answers to my 15 Questions below!

What is the most uncanny thing that you have ever experienced?

The day my partner and I adopted our dog Charlotte. We had only intended to go grocery shopping, but saw her in an adoption van and fell instantly in love — we got home to a letter in the mail that my childhood dog Snickers, who I’d lost when I was outed to the adult friends I was living with and became homeless in high school, had died. I hadn’t seen him in many years. Snickers and I competed in dog sports together and he opened up a whole world for me that gave me the strength to understand my own identities and escape abuse, but it was a world I ultimately lost when I came out as queer. Charlotte has changed almost everything about my life and led me back into a world of dogs and dog sports in a way that I never believed weren’t closed off to me. I fully believe that Snickers brought Charlotte to me.

What is in your bag right now? No bag? Your pocket? Your wallet?

::pulls out purse::

To do list, heart-shaped sunglasses, surprise blind bag toy I haven’t opened yet, tri-fold Star Wars wallet, extra gum, pig pouch with two kinds of headphones and a pink fidget cube inside, eclair shaped pen, unused FedEx mail sheet, SPF 70 sunscreen stick, hoop earrings – one says “yes” one says “no,” lol surprise doll, Maleficent tsum tsum shaped lip smackers lip gloss, crumpled receipt from buying postcards, blue marker, MAC lip glass sample (that’s probably expired), keys, skye terrier miniature toy, tampon, squishee corgi shaped like ice cream, Advil, lipstick – shade “hexagram,” small mirror with a mermaid, plastic hair barrettes shaped like rubber ducks, sticky tab bookmarks, Dramamine, hair tie, lipstick shade “viva glam” I almost never wear, hand sanitizer in a stitch case from magic kingdom, keys, blind bag toy checklist.

Please share the 15th picture on your cell phone.

Picture of the display case at a fancy dog bakery that I found walking distance from the beach cottage that we have been staying at. I got my dogs the rainbow heart pride cookie – because it’s gaycation.  

How are you like or not like your sun sign?

I’m a Taurus. I’m really, really a Taurus; home and family are super important to me, I’m reliable and pretty practical. Beyond that I don’t know a whole lot about astrology and never got that into it because I was born in Oregon where time of birth isn’t printed on your birth certificate.

My mother was a really abusive alcoholic. I have a memory of one birthday when I was about 10, sitting in the parking lot of Chuck E. Cheese’s and her telling me I was born at 5:34 p.m. She was really drunk so…… accurate? I’m not sure, but everything based on the time of birth she gave me that day makes sense, so I’m kinda a believer.  

What is the last book you read?

The last book I read is the graphic novel My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris. It’s really overwhelmingly beautiful, and sad. I really loved this book and literally devoured it in a day. I think it’s asking some really intensely important questions about queerness, monsters, histories, family etc.

What was the last meal you cooked?

Trader Joe’s boxed Mac and Cheese with veggie hot dogs in it. I almost never cook – I’m an awful cook. I’m really lucky to have a partner who cooks for me. Otherwise, this is what I would eat basically every day.

Where would you like to go on vacation right now?

I’m actually writing this from vacation! My partner and I along with our three dogs are on Gaycation in Provincetown. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. If I wasn’t on vacation here, I’d want to be in Disney World.

Tell me about getting to meet someone you idolize or admire.

When I was 19, I was a pretty lost zinester writing in Portland, Oregon. I got the chance to work with Auntie Kate Bornstein in a week-long writing intensive that culminated in a public performance with Kate. The troupe created was called “The Language of Paradox,” it’s mostly why I have the word “Paradox” tattooed across my chest. Meeting Kate was incredibly personally transformative, and inspired a continued friendship, but it also was a creative ass-kicking that I desperately needed. They took me out, bought me a copy of The Complete Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist by Diane DiMassa, which I still have and cherish. They told me to read it and figure out how to harness anger in my writing. Ultimately it was meeting and working with Kate that showed and convinced me that there was a future for me as a writer – and a community who wanted to hear my weirdo queer stories.

What are you like when you’re sick?

Super pathetic, very whiny. I want to be tucked in under soft blankets, wear comfortable jammies, take baths, watch cartoons and eat junk food. Basically, I’m a big five-year-old…. Which is kinda me every day but especially when I’m sick.

What are you obsessed with or inspired by right now?

I’m someone who works on a lot of different book projects at the same time – I’m in contract to finish a nonfiction book by the end of the year, I am also writing a queer/leather novel, and two picture books, but honestly right now I’m completely obsessed with a memoir/hybrid book project I’ve been working on about my trauma and healing connected to dogs – I grew up showing dogs, lost my dogs when I came out and became homeless, and over the last 16 years have found my way back into dog sport communities. This book is definitely pushing me emotionally and also has been really exciting to think about playing with structure on the page in terms of the hybrid parts. It’s really new for me – and yet really reminds me of zine writing.  It’s all I want to be writing!

What are you upset about right now?

The overall state of the world, climate change, people who break leash laws with their dogs, TERFS, homophobia, you know the usual. Also moving, because I’m a Taurus and not good at change. My nail polish being really chipped.

What is the most recent dream you remember?

I know I’ve had other dreams since but the most recent dream I really clearly remember involved dream-me finding a very large feather. Feathers, and specifically finding feathers is a sign that I’m always on the lookout for. It tells me that things are ok, are going to be ok, and that the dogs of my past are looking out for me and are with me.

Who are your queer ancestors?

This is a really interesting question – I love this and it’s something I think a lot about. My people/my queer ancestors are runaways, homeless queer youth, BDSM/leather folks, genderf*cker/genderqueer/trans people, and dykes.

What is your dream project?

I’m not exactly sure how to answer this! I have so many dreams – I also really try to actualize as many of my dreams as I can, so in some ways, each of my books have been a dream project. One dream project that is still waiting to come into the world is a nonfiction anthology of queer folks talking about their relationships to dogs. Also, more leather, ageplay, and asexual queer novels. I want to write all the things!

What are you doing this weekend?

This weekend I’ll be driving (well, I’ll be riding– I’m not a driver) home to Brooklyn to start packing up our house. My partner and I are selling it to start a big cross-country adventure of moving our whole family (three dogs and three cats) back to Portland, Oregon where we moved from 12 years ago.


Michelle Tea

Michelle Tea is the author of several books including The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl in America, ValenciaThe Chelsea Whistle, Rent Girl, How to Grow UpMermaid in Chelsea Creek and Girl at the Bottom of the Sea, Rose of No Man's LandBlack WaveModern Tarot, and Against Memoir.

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