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On a spring day in 1968, eight-year-old Isabel Gold prepares tea for her mother, certain she will drink it and recover from her mysterious sadness. But the tea remains untouched. Not long after, her mother takes her own life.

Struggling to understand the ghost her mother left behind, Isabel grows up trying on new identities. Her yearning for an emotional connection finds her falling in and out of love, in and out of roles as she aspires to be an actress. But it is not until Isabel learns how to reach deep within herself that she begins to listen to the truths of her own heart.


A pure and profound book; a ravishing book. After I’d finished reading it I couldn’t start reading anything else for a while—it just didn’t seem necessary. Stacey D’Erasmo is, simply, the real thing, and this book is a work of art

— Michael Cunningham

Stacey D’Erasmo is a terrific writer.

— Dorothy Allison 


Intimations of greatness…Written with a strength and daring that makes reading it a breathtaking pleasure…At once a portraitist and a keen social observer, D’Erasmo reveals herself in her first book as a writer without boundaries. Tea will no doubt be remembered as one of the significant novels of the year.

San Francisco Chronicle

Tea’s satisfying taste lingers.

— Maureen Corrigan, NPR

A memorable debut novel…barbed with bitter humor.

The New Yorker

I have read a whole lot of first novels and there’s not one I would have characterized as flawless until I read Tea.

— New York Newsday

D’Erasmo’s novel is an unpretentious attack on unsophisticated novelizing. Its sober insight is that the novelist can’t do better than words, so the words should be as honest as possible.

— Caleb Crain, New York Times Book Review

A deeply appealing story…Beautiful prose…D’Erasmo creates a world that is both highly recognizable and exceptional.


D’Erasmo expertly conveys everything it is to be twenty-two, and, throughout Tea, there’s a refreshingly old-fashioned concern with the life-and-death stakes of self-realization.

— Los Angeles Times

Coming-of-age stories usually move in a straight line, if only because it’s easier to tell them that way…Tea is far more faithful to the way selfhood evolves in circular, often absurdly comical, stages.

— Harper’s Bazaar

Radiantly moving…hilarious…D’Erasmo’s tale eschews labels, politics and generalizations. Hers is an intimate story, suffused with irony, humor, and a close, sensuous attention to physical detail. Isabel’s world opens up generously, providing the reader with intimate truths and emotional complexity that make this impressive debut unforgettable.

—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

D’Erasmo renders Isabel’s awakening to her homosexuality and to the magic and redemption of theater with a profound tactility…D’Erasmo’s prose possesses both the élan of a child playing make-believe and the insights gleaned from a truly literary writer’s openness to subtle gradations of emotion and change.

— Booklist (featured review)

Moving at times, bitter at others, it’s a book that’s both comical and filled with hurts that can haunt a heart…A remarkable debut novel.

Sanford Herald