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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Book Review: Anything But A Wasted Life is more than just a stripper’s memoir

This book by Sita Kaylin is an unapologetic autobiography of a fierce woman, who happens to be an exotic dancer. It shows just how relatable the desires, dreams, and fears of sex workers are.

books Updated: Oct 23, 2018 18:39 IST
Farozan Akhtar
Farozan Akhtar
Hindustan Times
         

It’s not very often that you come across a book by an unknown author in a genre you aren’t really fond of. This forces you to abandon your prejudices. Anything But A Wasted is that type of a book for this reviewer. An autobiography of a former stripper — who moonlights as a sex worker — isn’t something I would expect to be genuinely witty, funny, and a fascinating read. What’s even more surprising is the matter-of-fact tone in which the author talks about her life, treating it all like a thrilling adventure.

A pre-law graduate, Sita Kaylin was born in San Francisco and raised by a single parent in a hippie commune. Working three jobs to pay for her education, she chanced upon a job as an exotic dancer, and fell in love with the freedom it gave her. Out the window went her dreams of law school and reforming the prison system as she embraced a stripper’s outrageous life.

READ: Leadership lessons from sex workers

It features love, heartbreak, addiction, stalkers, trips around the world, loss — all portrayed with a dark sense of humour. She even mentions a peripheral association with the largest acid drug bust in the history of USA. So, Sita’s life appears worthy of a movie; without any exaggeration.

Taking a non-chronological approach to sharing her story, she reveals what lies beneath the glitter of a stripper-cum-hooker’s life. While the book sheds light on the inner workings of the sex industry, it’s more than just about her profession. Her self-deprecatory anecdotes serve as an astute analysis of human desires, relationships, addictions, and mental health.

This work is extremely candid and well-written. Her narration is conversational — no grand philosophising or ornate language for her, thank you very much. Sample this:

Next was an Indian guy who came straight from an Indian dinner. He smelled like curry. He was beside himself and said he was in love. I’ve found that love and a good lap dance often go hand in hand. I could barely feel his dick through his pants. Now I smell like curry and ejaculate. I’ve got one more hour to go.

You might even be surprised by how much wisdom there is in her observations. Here’s an excerpt where she talks about the abuse she faced in her childhood: I eventually realised it wasn’t about Arty anymore. I needed to forgive him for my own well-being. It’s possible he didn’t remember the shit he had done or maybe it was buried deep and covered with a thick blanket of denial... My home life was abusive and I lived in fear most of the time. Even so, there are people who have it much worse. I recognise I grew up surrounded by beauty, and I’m grateful to have experienced some of the things I did.

READ: A story for everyone #WithPride

A word of caution for the conservative reader: This book is meant for adults. Sexual acts, bodily fluids, drug-fuelled adventures are mentioned aplenty. The author is nonchalant about sharing deeply personal details that would scandalise, and may be even disturb, many of us.

Sita comes across as an unorthodox, fierce woman who took life by its horns. Never does she let regret colour her life choices, which is no mean feat considering some of her choices would be labelled downright suicidal. She owns every mistake, every accomplishment as her decision, and a precious lesson.

The book gets a little repetitive as it nears the end (primarily due to the nature of her professional encounters). However, by the time you turn the last page, you will be left with a new perspective of looking at your own life choices and what it truly means to live.

Facts
  • Title: Anything But A Wasted
  • Author: Sita Kaylin
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Price: ₹499

Interact with the author at Twitter/@TheMissCurious

First Published: Oct 23, 2018 18:39 IST