I know that was a cheesy rhyme, but I will have to write at another time about how amazing Jillian Lauren is. You should go read her book, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, right now. And catch her on her book tour (this Thursday in NYC at Sex Worker Literati at Happy Ending Lounge, 302 Broome Street, 8 pm, for a start). I'll be there, bearing cupcakes (for Jillian, but she will probably share). Follow her @jillylauren on Twitter. Currently #98 on Amazon!!
FYI, I'd never heard of her before about a month ago when I picked up Bust (which has a great review of Best Sex Writing 2010 which I will post soon) and saw an interview with her by Shira Tarrant. I was intrigued, but the book wasn't out yet. Then that Monday, two days later, I got a copy in the mail, like magic, and was riveted, and emailed her to tell her how much I loved and was moved by the book, and we got to meet at the LA Times Festival of Books.
You can watch her appearance on The View here and read an interview with her at The Gloss here. There was a fabulous profile of her in LA Weekly and I will be blogging on a related note (about what happened when I went to Digg that piece) in "I Don't Care About Your Husband" (an homage to Julie Klausner in the title) soon.
I wrote this review on Amazon:
Some Girls is about, on the surface, Lauren's time spent in a harem in Brunei, but dig just marginally beneath that surface and you will see that this is a memoir that tackles major moments in both her life and one's that many women struggle with. Lauren leaves home at 16 to head out on her own at NYU, but soon finds the life of the theater and, later, escorting, more her style. She is young, brash and carefree, but Lauren never makes it as easy as "I was rebelling." She transposes her freewheeling time against her search for meaning--and her birth mother. Her descriptions of life in the palace, the over-the-top, almost sickening shopping sprees, and encounters with Prince Jefri vividly, including rivalry, jealousy, desire and boredom.
Some of the most moving scenes here, though, having nothing to do with the harem, even if they were informed by her time there. Her quest, and eventual success, in finding her birth mother is at the core of what it means to find oneself, and the ways that meeting falls short of Lauren's expectations are poignant. When she writes of her accidental pregnancy, the boyfriend who wasn't interested, and how she chose to deal with that, she starkly highlights the humanity within the debate around abortion in a way we truly need to see more of in our society. And when Lauren finds tattoo culture (fun fact: Ed Hardy once had a magazine called Tattootime, which becomes Lauren's bible), she writes of having found her people, and promptly gets a major tattoo that even her tattoo artist advises her against.
I found myself repeatedly marveling that the protagonist is only, at most, 19 or 20 when most of the scenes here take place. Lauren displays a maturity beyond her years in her self-assurance (though, again, beneath the surface much more than toughness bubbles up) as well as in the writing and self-reflection. This is a memoir in the truest sense of the word, not a dashed-off "I did this for a year" but a piece that flashes back and reveals her childhood piece by piece, showing why she had this restless yearning to travel so far and get involved with the Prince, even dreaming of having his child at one point. She complicates prostitution and her role in it, while never disowning or disavowing that word or the reality of what she did, and in doing so, has written an outstanding story that is both a fast, at times glamorous read, and one that is very likely to make you cry which, in my book, makes it a winner.
This is how she signed my book in LA: