A woman describes how she was drawn into exploitative sex work as a young teenager and her difficult transition back to a normal life in this memoir.
“Kick me hard with those sexy boots,” pleaded the man who was 13-year-old Amaya’s introduction to prostitution. Amaya (The Destiny of Zoe Carpenter, 2013) grew up in the 1960s in suburban Fairfax, Virginia, leading a fairly ordinary life until she was 10, when, she recounts, her father and then brother began molesting her. On her 12th birthday, she ran away for the first of many times, then began taking drugs: “they made my bad memories and feelings disappear.” She wound up in New York City with a pimp named Moses. Lonely, young, and needy, Amaya had no resistance to Moses’ combination of praise, protection, and warmth mixed with brutal beatings to keep her in line. After some years of prostitution, addiction to heroin, jail terms, and beatings, she left Moses, reconnected somewhat with her family, and detoxed through a methadone clinic. Gaining confidence in small steps, Amaya re-entered the straight world. She married and had a daughter (later leaving her husband, she recalls, because of his violence and drinking), opened a day care center, and survived a cancer bout. Her daughter’s teenage years, and increasing media attention to sex trafficking spurred Amaya to tell her whole story, help young girls like herself, and clear her criminal record of juvenile charges. In this honest, thoughtful, and powerful memoir, Amaya describes (with often heartbreaking clarity) how easy it is for a confused, hurting girl to get caught up in a pimp’s false offers of love and caretaking. Stories of this type tend to end when someone is released from trafficking, but Amaya puts a useful spotlight on the difficulties of going straight: “Growing up on the streets of New York had turned me into an adult even while part of me remained a child, frozen in time.” Her courage in facing adult life with only a sixth-grade education is commendable, and while her account is sometimes harrowing, Amaya never tugs heartstrings unnecessarily or exhibits self-pity.
A former prostitute’s inspiring transformation, ably told.