Some Girls, My Life in a Harem

Jillian Lauren
Plume Book, 2010

What would Patti Smith do? She would sing to me. She would forgive me for losing myself, writes Lauren of her coming of age memoir. I had nothing to forgive her for, so I could enjoy being entertained.

Lauren seems an unlikely young woman to veer toward a short career in high class prostitution before jumping into an all expenses paid time away with a royal family prince in Brunei. Vulnerable, but with a writer’s observing eye, she adjusts to the heady, wealthy, sequestered and not surprisingly back-biting jealousies of kept women vying for the same man. Meanwhile she reads Artraud and Hesse. I suspect her motivation for telling the reader this, but I would, too, in her situation.

She describes Robin, the younger brother of the Sultan, as ...poreless, hairless, muscular. He had no scars, no leaky emotions, nothing notably human to speak of. Sunk by her own feminine charms and mental undoing, she falls in love with him and the book becomes a good middle-class girl’s mental gymnastics between her fantasy, a totally foreign life and the pull of her New York Jewish childhood, with colorful, somewhat dysfunctional parents and a brother. She feels desire for the adulthood that hadn’t organically sprung from childhood because being a prostitute got in the way, along with her kicker side-story. She was adopted as a baby and is now curious about her birth mother.

Life in the harem is described in one paragraph and seamlessly disrupted in the next with reminisces of childhood, a birth mother, old boyfriends and her love of theatre. Then we’re back with the thrill of a limitless shopping spree and gifts of jewelry.

Her blend of humor, self-inquiry and observation make light entertainment with surprising doses of honest heartache. An alternative summer beach read, Some Girls doesn’t pretend to be any more than it is, a glimpse into another’s life where we watch Lauren plunge into a fringe lifestyle and then deal with the results that for some are not fixable. Lauren’s are faced and fixed so we can all go forth without remorse for her or Brunei, and with her belief that Patti Smith, her imagined fairy godmother, would forgive her.

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