A harrowing and engrossing account of a young woman’s difficult journey.

BLIND PONY

AS TRUE A STORY AS I CAN TELL

A debut memoir tells the story of a teenager trying to escape a life of exploitation and find herself.

Hart’s troubles started when she was 5 years old. Her mother had left her husband, taking her five daughters to live on her parents’ farm in rural Pennsylvania. According to Hart, her grandfather sexually abused her repeatedly, trying to hide the horrific deeds from the rest of the family. He was caught in the act by the author’s mother, who ignored it. Hart decided she would have to fend for herself and headed to Arizona to live with her father, “Wild Bill,” whom she had idealized in his absence. But he had started a new family, and Hart would not be a part of it. The cycle of abuse continued as she fled Arizona for Los Angeles after a pimp tried to recruit her. She found herself hooked on drugs and abused by a string of men trying to keep her as a sex object. But along the way, she discovered assets and talents. Eventually, she realized she had inherited her father’s ability to bluff his way through sales and that she was good at prepping a store for presentations. She did some modeling, and that led her to different jobs as a stylist for adult photo shoots. Hart followed a photographer named Eugene to England and wound up traveling around Europe, selling adult photo sets to publishers. At one point, she became a backgammon hustler in Los Angeles, something readers likely won’t find in many memoirs. Most of this happened before she turned 20. What pulls the story along is that each time the exploitation cycle repeated, Hart seemed to get a little closer to relying on her own strengths and finally becoming independent. The drugs, the lure of glamour, and just bad decision-making kept getting in the way. Hart is a gifted storyteller, and sometimes these engaging tales of traveling the world and mingling with the rich and famous seem like something out of a celebrity biopic (perhaps why she subtitled her work). The book is ultimately inspirational, but readers have to see the author go through a wringer to get there.

A harrowing and engrossing account of a young woman’s difficult journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64871-010-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

TANQUERAY

A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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