Extra AF: The SUGAR Spring Reading List

Not to dwell on the fact that we’re all going to be cooped up inside for the season we all wait for to finally go outside, not all things “spring” are cancelled. There’s the much anticipated spring cleaning, of cleansing junk, dirt, dust and toxicity in our lives, and what a better time to do that then in quarantine. During this eerily quiet time, we’re realizing the little things can actually be a great stimulus (no-pun intended), such as organizing a room, writing a letter, cooking a meal or reading a book. All little things we tend to take for granted when we’re on the move, letting life take the reins. If you’re having a hard time sitting with your thoughts, or need an easy distraction that’s not Netflix, we’ve compiled a short SUGAR Spring Reading List that will hopefully inspire all you hustling hoes and give you a good reason to enjoy sitting still, even just for a second. 

P.S. All the links to purchase are through IndieBound.org, which connects you with ways to buy from local bookstores instead of major corporations like Amazon. Most titles are also available in audiobook or digitally.

The Stonewall Reader edited by The New York Public Library 

I’ve been reading this during the quarantine and it’s been super inspiring not only as a sex worker, but as an activist. It’s been eye-opening to read and learn about an uprising and a major turn of events in history that altered the path of a marginalized group of people as we all go through a global pandemic together, witnessing first-hand an event that will inevitably have major effects on our country's economic, social and political future. The Stonewall Reader contains short essays and excerpts from LGBTQ activists, writers and artists dating before, during and after the Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969, telling their personal experiences and perspectives on this civil rights movement. The editors chose to highlight work from majority POC versus the more publicized white LGBTQ experience. 

As a sex worker who lives to die in a world where sex work is seen as legitimate and respectable work, and the people in this feild can be free of dangerous and harmful stigmas, it’s truly inspirational reading about how the LGBTQ community finally stopped asking for their rights as equals and simply began demanding them. I see our fight as sex workers mirroring this in ways, and am actively taking notes from activists like Craig Rodwell, a member of the Mattachine Society of New York in the 1960’s who writes, “I don’t really believe in law reform as a goal … First you have to change what people basically think of themselves.” 

The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene

While yes, this is written by a man, if you’re not familiar with Robert Greene’s work, his other titles include The 48 Laws of Power, and The Laws of Human Nature, so it’s apparent his in-depth studies are heavily invested in sex, power and sociology, all subjects that sex workers must be fluent in in order to be successful in their feild. I used to read a section, or at least a couple pages of The Art of Seduction before getting ready for my shift and it would put me in the mood to hustle, feeling educated and prepared for my coming hours of seducing men and claiming my power. 

This particular study of seduction looks at the 9 different types of seducers and can help you identify which one (or mix) you might be. It’s important to know that seduction is not the same for everyone, and mastering it as an art takes practice and knowledge that what works for you may not work for others, and vice versa. Are you the Siren, or the Rake? Or maybe you’re a Dandy, or the Star. It’s fascinating to take a deeper look at these prototype seducers and how far they date back in history, what they embody, and how they shaped the concept of seduction in modern society. After all, sex work is creative work, and there is always room to perfect your art.  

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden 

Oh, there's so much to say about this one. For those of you that prefer fiction, this is an excellent historical-fiction novel about a young woman becoming a Geisha in Kyoto, Japan before, during and after World War II and ends with her being relocated to New York City. The most valuable thing I've learned from this book, and something I hold dear to my heart is to always handle adversity with grace. As far as we've come as women, as outspoken, as enduring, as fearless and true forces we've become, truly some of the strongest women were those sentenced to silence. Those forced to face their heartbreak each and every day, with a smile on their face and appear pure and beautiful while doing so. I only knew this true strength when I was forced to do it myself. To have your own strength inside, and to seek your own recognition when no one else will give it to you.

While it’s not a novel overtly about “sex work” I think this is a story and triumph that most sex workers can relate to. Centering around a world where appearance is everything, virginity is collateral and women exist purely to entertain the most powerful men. However, their “submissiveness” and emotional intelligence becomes their greatest strength in survival.

Practice You by Elena Brower

No one would say they were mentally prepared for quarantine- mentally, spiritually, and physically. While being out of work has proven one of the most pressing challenges, sitting alone with my thoughts ranks number two. After years and years of “just getting over things” AKA repressing my emotions, I decided to dive head first into a journey of listening to and forgiving my inner child. Elena Brower’s interactive journal, Practice You, guides you through worthwhile prompts that allow you to discover gratitude, faith, and understanding. It’s a tough time for all of us, and if anything, we’re learning that we are all we have, and loving ourselves a little more couldn’t hurt.

The Last of the Live Nude Girls: A Memoir by Sheila McClear

Sheila McClear’s entrance into the world of sex work is not far off from what I’ve seen to be the norm: moving to a big city, following a dream, and needing some extra cash. This memoir takes us through a less modern view of sex work, yet totally relevant in the time of quarantine, a hands-free peep show. McClear begins working at a peep show in what was Manhattan’s Red Light District, Times Square, and quickly discovers her detachment to the sexual nature of the profession. As a journalist, McClear is a natural storyteller and takes us into her “underground” reality- that most have never, and will never, see.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Otessa Moshfegh

The quintessential tale of quarantine, My Year of Rest and Relaxation follows an Upper East Side trust fund baby on her quest to hibernation. Every time I open this book, I feel less alone in my solitude, and more appreciative of this time to, well, rest and relax. What seems like a highly polarizing look at being alone is actually what most can now relate to- hopefully with less prescriptions involved. It is a fascinating glimpse into our own reality, but from a different, more tired, perspective.

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