Strip: A Memoir
by Hannah Sward
Tortoise Books

"My mom left when I was two."

The author takes her childhood trauma and adult struggles with addiction and wields them like a literary sword. Her blunt, unadorned writing style is tremendously effective in the title’s diary-like chapters, making the evocative memoir readable in a single sitting. Sward’s direct, unabashed childhood recollections will sear hearts and affirm how illogical decisions arise when children are raised or abandoned by emotionally unavailable parents. In Sward’s case, abandonment by her mom and unconventional rearing by an introverted but busy poet dad, coupled with a stranger abduction and molestation at the age of six, eventually led to her entry into the sex industry as an adult club stripper and a sugar daddy companion. The rollercoaster of drug addiction—in Sward’s case, meth—accompanied her lifestyle.

Sward’s unabashed honesty and her long struggle with self-discovery that led her to emerge as a talented writer come across believably. Eventually, she banks on the genetic and learned strengths that her parents held all along despite their shortcomings. Even in the midst of battling with depression, anxiety, and addiction in the no-limits atmosphere of the 1970s and ‘80s (especially in Lala-land Los Angeles), the author comes across as uniquely endowed with the spirit of a non-conformist survivor. She leaves the psychological analysis that might accompany her prose to the reader, but she drops so many evocative breadcrumbs along the way that the path and its conclusions are obvious. Sward’s life became the path, and the eventual understanding and transformation have been wrought in part by writing succinctly about it. This title will appeal to many readers who have also chosen, or nearly chosen, this lifestyle that adds another layer of uncertainty and trauma to an already tenuous existence.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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