Paper pub. date
October 2023
ISBN 9780870712555 (paperback)
6 x 9, 216 pages.
Available October 2023

Spinning Tea Cups

A Mythical American Memoir

Alexandra Teague

In nine quirky, richly told, intersecting essays, Alexandra Teague brings readers along for the wild ride, traversing the American landscape in the company of a talking puppet, Victorian ghosts, and a family fueled by fantasy, dysfunction, and fierce love.

Why did people who shunned the culture of consumerism and prided themselves on making everything from scratch take annual trips to Disney World, the mecca of mass-manufactured fun? Did her mother really have psychic abilities? Why did her sensitive youngest nephew speak in a voice that wasn’t his own? How do family legacies of grief and dysfunction and creativity intersect? How can she escape her circumstances without replicating the escapist fantasies with which she was raised?

Teague attempts to understand and contextualize her family in terms of trauma and mental health, but also with deep love and humor. Carefully attuned to the vagaries of geographical cultures, she weaves her family’s history with explorations of pop culture and the specific cultures of the places she and her family pass through: a Texas city, an Arkansas Victorian tourist town, a Southwest ghost town, Central Florida, the Bay Area, Kansas City, and Moscow, Idaho—a college town in the Inland Northwest.

Spinning Tea Cups will appeal to readers interested in American cultural studies, those concerned with the ongoing crisis of mental illness in this country, and anyone seeking to explore the dangerous and recuperative powers of fantasy.

About the author

Alexandra Teague is professor of English and co-director of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Idaho. She is the author of three volumes of poetry and a novel, The Principles Behind Flotation.

Read more about this author

“While the uncovering of a magician’s trick often drains it of power, the revelations in Alexandra Teague’s essays only increase the potency of their magic. Spinning Tea Cups is fantastic in both senses of the word. It is smart and compelling and gorgeously written. It also balances credulity in the other-worldly with clear-eyed reassessment of what’s usually called ‘the facts,’ creating a complex, deeply human portrait of self and family.”
—Kate Lebo, author of The Book of Difficult Fruit

“This memoir-in-essays recounts growing up in a family of ‘feral Victorians’ in the eccentric occult town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. With essayistic ruminations on matters of faith, kitsch, mental health, gun violence, and memory, Spinning Tea Cups has all the page-turning pleasures of an engaging story, along with insight, wisdom, and exquisite prose.”
—Kathryn Nuernberger, author of The Witch of Eye

“Part Portrait of the Artist, part picaresque, Alexandra Teague’s Spinning Tea Cups is a brilliant ride through the landscapes of an artist, starting with the author’s unforgettable mother—a woman psychic, artistic, mercurial, maternal. Like one of the Disney rides that anchor the book, family, lovers, and grief pop in and out in a rollick that magically turns kitsch into wonder.”
—Susanne Paola Antonetta, author of The Terrible Unlikelihood of Our Being Here

“Alexandra Teague’s Spinning Tea Cups narrates an extraordinary family’s struggles with the realities and unrealities of mental illness. Is she the child of psychics who can see ghosts, spells, spirits, and foreknowledge as clear as a fire at night? Or is she collateral damage of people too lost in their own magical thinking to see her needs? Erudite, intellectual, literary, these essays explore puns, ghosts, tourism, but always at their heart is Teague’s own relationship to her family, and by extension, to her understanding of self, a young woman moving through the definitions others have for her to take control of her own destiny.”
—Cris Harris, author of I Have Not Loved You With My Whole Heart

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