Table of Contents
A PLUME BOOK
JILLIAN LAUREN is a writer and performer who grew up in suburban New Jersey. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.
“Lauren is a gifted and lyrical writer whose coming-of-age tale has the reader firmly under its spell by the end of the first paragraph. It’s an amazing ride as she seeks, and then finds, meaning and connection in her life. I couldn’t put it down.”
—Nina Hartley, author of
Nina Hartley’s Guide to Total Sex
“Catfights, mad cash, priceless jewels—welcome to the sultan’s harem. What starts out juicy quickly turns soulful in this elegantly crafted, multilayered stunner of a memoir. A spellbinding tale of one woman’s exotic search for identity and true love.”
—Rachel Resnick, author of
reads like a novel, but gets under your skin in a way fiction can’t. This is a striptease of a book, sexy and mesmerizing, but at the end a very real woman stands in front of you, exposed and vulnerable. I couldn’t put it down, and when I was done, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”
—Claire LaZebnik, author of
Knitting Under the Influence
“Few women dare to speak of their sexual adventures with such honesty, fascinating detail, and personal clarity. Jillian’s journey is the most exotic sex worker memoir I’ve ever read.”
—Annie Sprinkle, PhD
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. • Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.). • Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England. • Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.). • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.). • Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India. • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.). • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published by Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, May 2010
Copyright © Jillian Lauren, 2010 All rights reserved
Excerpt from “Once in a Lifetime,” words and music by David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth, and Brian Eno. Copyright © 1980 by WB Music Corp., Index Music, Inc., and EG Music Ltd. All rights on behalf of itself and Index Music, Inc., administered by WB Music Corp. All rights for EG Music Ltd. in the United States and Canada administered by Universal Music - MGB Songs. International copyright secured. All rights reserved. , Inc., and Hal Leonard Corporation.
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCAREGISTRADA LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Some girls : my life in a Harem / Jillian Lauren.
eISBN : 978-1-101-40444-7
States—B iography. 3. Harems—B orneo. 4. Identity (Psychology) I. Title.
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Penguin is committed to publishing works of quality and integrity.
In that spirit, we are proud to offer this book to our readers;
however, the story, the experiences, and the words
are the author’s alone.
love redeems all
And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack And you may find yourself in another part of the world And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile And you may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife And you may ask yourself, well . . . how did I get here?
Special thanks to Becky Cole, Alexandra Machinist, Patti Smith, Jim Krusoe, Leonard Chang, Joe Gratziano, Anne Dailey, Colin Summers, Nell Scovell, Claire LaZebnik, the Writer’s Sunget, Robert Morgan Fisher, Tammy Stoner, Ivan Sokolov, Suzanne Luke, Carol Allen, Catharine Dill, Amber Lasciak, R. P. Brink, the Wooster Group, Richard Foreman, Lindsay Davis, Sean Eden, Dr. Keely Kolmes, Julie Fogliano, Jennifer Erdagon, Jerry Stahl, Shawna Kenney, Bett Williams, Austin Young, Lily Burana, Lynnee Breedlove, Gabrielle Samuels, Sherri Carpenter, and, always, Scott Shriner.
Deepest gratitude to my family and to all who shared my story.
The Shah’s wife was unfaithful to him, so he cut off her head and summarily declared all women to be evil and thereby deserving of punishment. Every night the Shah’s grand vizier brought him a new virgin to marry and every morning the Shah had the woman executed. After too many of these bloody sunrises, the vizier’s eldest and favorite daughter asked to be brought to the Shah as that night’s offering. The grand vizier protested, but his daughter insisted, and this daughter was known throughout the kingdom for her powers of persuasion. At the end of the day, the Shah married the vizier’s daughter while the vizier wept in his chambers, unable to watch.
At first, the daughter’s wedding night was indistinguishable from the wedding nights of the other ill-fated virgins who had married the Shah before her, but as morning approached, the Shah’s newest wife began to tell him a story. The story had not yet reached its conclusion when the pink light of dawn crept around the edges of the curtains. The Shah agreed to let the woman live for just one more day, because he couldn’t bear to kill her before he learned the story’s end.
The next night the woman finished that story, but before the sun rose over the dome of the palace mosque, she began another, equally as compelling as the last. The following one thousand and one nights each concluded with an unfinished story. By the end of this time, the Shah had fallen in love with the woman, and he spared her life, his heart mended and his faith in women restored.
This is, of course, the story of Scheherazade. It’s the story of the storyteller. We lay our heads on the block and hope that you’ll spare us, that you’ll want another tale, that you’ll love us in the end. We’re looking for the story that will save our lives.
One thousand and one nights—nearly three years. That’s about the span of this story. Will you listen? It’s almost morning.
he day I left for Brunei I took the subway uptown to Beth Israel, schlepping behind me a green flowered suitcase. The last time I had used the suitcase was when I left my room in NYU’s Hayden Hall for good, dragged all my crap out of the elevator and onto the sidewalk, and cabbed it down to the Lower East Side, where a friend of a friend had a room for rent. The time before that, my mother had helped me unpack from it my college-y fall clothes, labeled jammies, and ziplock bags full of homemade chocolate-chip cookies. Each time I unzipped that suitcase it contained a whole different set of carefully folded plans. Each time I packed it back up I was on the run again.
I heaved the suitcase up three steps, rested, then heaved again until the rectangle of light at the top of the staircase opened out onto the bright buzz of Fourteenth Street. Underneath my winter overcoat the back of my shirt was damp with sweat. I hadn’t thought I’d packed so much. I’d stood in front of my closet for hours wishing the perfect dress would magically materialize in a flurry of sparkles, would soar through the door, held aloft by a host of bluebirds. I was going to a royal ball, goddammit. I was traveling to meet a prince. Was my fairy godmother really going to leave me with such a lousy selection of clothes to choose from? Apparently she was.