Rose of No Man's Land

The second book I have read this year for the Feminist Reads challenge at theHiding Spot is ‘‘Rose of No Man’s Land’‘ by Michelle Tea.

I found this book in the Young Adult section of the bookstore but don’t think it was properly placed. This book follows a few days in the life of a fourteen-year-old Trisha as she befriends Rose; a misfit who is a dizzying and unpredictable tornado of life. Their days are action-filled with shoplifting, hitchhiking, drinking alcohol, drug taking, and sexual adventures galore. I personally think it’s not for the younger crowd, maybe teens 16 and over but the detailed descriptions of taking crystal meth made me nervous and I wouldn’t be eager to have my fourteen-year-old read it. That said, I thought the book was very well written and a true-to-life

There was a lot about these two female characters that screamed feminist. They were both sassy, tough, determined and eager to take a big bite of life. Instead of letting life dictate their direction, they dictated their own direction, come what may. Sexual and gender confusion are dealt with in a realistic manner.  The girls masked their vulnerability with bravado and moxy, especially Rose.

In keeping with the theme of the Female Empowerment Bracelet I’d like to share a passage in the book that left a profound impression on me and underlines the resilience and assertiveness of Rose. The scene occurs when the two teenagers are hitchhiking together for the first time.

Please note I have excerpted this passage as it was written in the book, with dialogue in italics.


     The first car that stopped, Rose was, like, forget it.  It was some crapped-out number that firstly didn’t even look like it’d make it to Revere Beach, and secondly was already crammed with people, dude-people who looked wicked unsavory.     Heeeeeeey! the dude in the front passenger seat hooted out the window.  You ladies off to the Palace?

      Um,no, Rose said.  There was so much in those two words.    

     We’re going to the Palace, but we could drop you ladies off somewhere first. If you’re sure you don’t want to come along?

      If you’re sure you’re a lady, the kid in the backseat said. He said it in that way, like when you pretend to be coughing but you’re really saying something shitty. He choked the words into his hands, but there were too many words. That gag works best with words, like douche bag or lezzie. Wicked slick.

      I Heard You, Slick, I snapped at him.  

     Slick! the kid next to him howled, poking him in his stupid tank top. All of them wore tank tops, low under the armpits, revealing an eyeful of boy-boobie. Also, they sported gold chains and baseball hats twirled at various quirky angles. 

     How’d you guess my name was Slick, beeyatch?  The car was rumbling with laughter and I felt sick. I wanted them to leave. Even though it was true that I looked like a boy I just didn’t like how they said it. When Rose said it earlier it was like I was tough, could ass-kick in a fight.

     Get out of here, Rose swished her hands like she was shooing off a small dog. We’re not going with you, man.

     We don’t have to go anywhere, the driver leaned past his friend, sprawling across the steering wheel. He was demonstrating a relaxed vibe. Staying slumped, he crawled the car a little closer. I moved back toward the bench. See, I knew the hitchhiking thing was a shitty idea. It’s so hard to get rid of dudes when they attach themselves hostilely to you. At least they were in a car and we could run in the opposite direction if we needed to. But that’s so humiliating. Running away sucks. I don’t get beat up but I just feel fucked-up from it for hours. Like my mind got beat up. I looked at Rose. I gave my head a jerk in the away direction, but she was ignoring me. She was glaring at them.

     Get out of here, she repeated. The guy in the front passenger side leaned further out the window. He smiled a big smug smile at her. His eyes were sort of slitted and teary and I figured they were f*@ked-up. All f*@ked-up and on their way to the Palace, a totally stupid gigantic dance club complex right here in Mogsfield. The place was divided into different awful dance clubs. Like there was a room with male strippers where people like my mom went to get tanked and throw themselves at the stage. One sections was called Rascals and it was for kids sixteen and up. That place was famous for being date-rape central and it was probably the one where the hoopdie full of losers was heading.

     Front passenger licked his lips, which were large and chapped. Dry from dehydration, from too much drinking and smoking. I’m going to stay here and look at you, he google-eyed Rose. I like looking at you. You’re funny looking. The geniuses in the back cracked up.

     C’mon Rose, I said. I was getting twitchy. Shit like this is exactly why I don’t leave the house. And then Rose went totally nuts. She tugged her dress in a quick flash, her hand sunk down her drawers. When her hand came back it was clutching what looked like a dead mouse. A coagulated blood-lugey slid off the side of the mouse, which Rose was holding by its ropey tail. It was Rose’s tampon. The blood splattered the sidewalk. The guys all roared. There was a second of delayed stoner reaction, and Front Passenger jumped back, hitting his head on the rearview.

     What the f*@k! all the dudes screamed. I heard the words sick bitch and maybe something really tired like slut. And then Rose twirled the tampon around like some perverted Wild West hero. She spun it by the string, flicking blood from the drenched cotton, and she let it fly into the car. It whacked Front Passenger in the face. It bounced off his acne-speckled cheek and came to rest on his tank top. He jerked and spazzed as the blob of tampon snagged on his gold chain, as it rode up onto the skin of his clavicle and then plunged down his shirt.

     Aaaaaaaah, the dude screamed. Aaaaaaaaah, aaaaaaaah. It was like he was on fire.

     Get the f*@k out! the driver reached around him and popped the door open. Bloody Front Passenger spun toward his friend. He banged his head on the rearview again. It was bonked all out of place and the driver said,F*@k, and then shoved the kid in his back. He shoved him hard out the open door.

     Clean yourself off, man! That’s sick! That’s sick! My fu*@king car! One of the kids from the backseat leaned over and pulled the door shut. Front passenger stood on the curb and the tampon slid out from his shirt, landing on the sidewalk. Rose dove for it, her grubby fingers wrapping around the string. The thing still had plenty of blood left in it. It was like the Uzi of bloody tampons. She could take him out again and again. I was breathless. What a genius weapon. The car peeled out, leaving their friend in a blue fog of burnt tire and exhaust. They headed in the general direction of the Palace. Front Passenger was lifting his shirt, looking at the long smears of Rose’s menstruation on his chest. He held the fabric away from the wet mess.

     What the f*@k? he demanded. He looked seriously pained. He looked like Rose just kicked him in the ‘nads. Like she’d done something dirty, betrayed some sort of pact we’d all agreed to. The tampon swung from her fingers. She made it sway like a pendulum. Her big eyes got creepy-big. “

Granted it’s gross and messy, but if using your bloody tampon as a weapon against bothersome boys isn’t a feminist act, I don’t know what is.  Rose took a situation where she was vulnerable and turned it on it’s head and came out the aggressor. Bloody brilliant!


Posted on May 7, 2013 .