Alexandra Teague with Katie Lee Ellison — 'Spinning Tea Cups: A Mythical American Memoir'

At the intersection of memoir and cultural criticism, these beautifully written vignettes explore the invention of identity based on history, geography, and fantasy.


Third Place Books is pleased to welcome Alexandra Teague, co-director of the MFA program at the University of Idaho! Teague will be discussing her new memoir, Spinning Tea Cups: A Mythical American Memoir, about the wild ride of her youth, traversing wide swaths of the American landscape in the company of a talking puppet, Victorian ghosts, and a family fueled by fantasy, dysfunction, and fierce love. She will be joined in conversation by Nonfiction for No Reason series founder, Katie Lee Ellison. This event is free and open to the public.

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About Spinning Tea Cups. . .

In these quirky and richly told tales, Alexandra Teague brings readers along for the wild ride of her youth, traversing wide swaths of 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.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.


Praise for Spinning Tea Cups. . .

"Is Alexandra Teague the child of psychics who can see in the world the possibility of life after death, of spells, of spirits, of foreknowledge? Or is she collateral damage of people too concerned with their own magical thinking to keep her best interests at heart? The book is at it's most gripping at the knife edge of these questions, when Teague fights to become her own self, author of her own story, able to poke tender fun at the many different versions of herself."
—Cris Harris, author of I Have Not Loved You With My Whole Heart

"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 clear 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

"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

Alexandra Teague is mostly recently the author of Spinning Tea Cups: A Mythical American Memoir (Oregon State University Press, Oct. 2023). Her previous books include three poetry collections—Or What We’ll Call Desire (Persea, 2019), described in The New York Times as "passionate, quirky, and righteously outraged," The Wise and Foolish Builders, and Mortal Geography, winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky Prize and the California Book Award—as well as the novel The Principles Behind Flotation. She also co-edited Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence. After living in states including Arkansas, Florida, and California, Alexandra is a professor and co-director of the MFA program at University of Idaho.

Katie Lee Ellison has pieces of her memoir published or forthcoming in ShenandoahThe Seventh WaveMoss, and elsewhere. She’s a 2016-2017 Hugo House Fellow, a 2018 fellow at the Yiddish Book Center, and a 2020 Tin House Summer Workshop attendee. She holds a BA in English Lit from Wellesley College and an MFA from the University of Idaho. Find her on Instagram @katie_lee_e and Twitter @KatieLeeEllison.

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