Egyptian Exotica: A Memoir of Dancing Naked
It feels slightly disingenuous for a book to promise a look behind the "glamour" of stripping to the seedy reality of the thing. Rare is the woman who aspires to make her money in such a fashion--dancing naked for money is ipso facto seedy, shorthand for sleaze and a life where one has to make some desperate choices. Thus it shouldn't come as much of a shock to anyone that in the course of her stripping career Rania Zada saw some pretty nasty desperate shit.
That said, nasty desperate shit can make for an entertaining read, and Zada's memoir does entertain, in places. For the most part, it's what you'd expect-dirt-bag managers, skeevy customers loose with their hands, co-workers low on self-esteem and high on whatever they can get their hands on. Zada herself does her share of drugs but fails to develop a full-blown addiction to anything, and she never makes the transition to hookerdom. She also doesn't make bags and bags of money-her life outside the club is pretty hardscrabble, a grind like anyone else's. She gets better, as time goes on, at separating horny fools from their money but never develops the rock-hard heart and gimlet eye of a true professional. Good for her, but perhaps a little ho-hum for the reader.
Zada also takes you into her personal life, her fractious relationship with her high-strung, domineering mother and her last memories of her estranged father. Zada's family is Egyptian, though she herself lives, even without the stripping, a decidedly American rock 'n' roll lifestyle. The background we're given here serves a better purpose than "de-glamourizing" the stripper or her profession-it humanizes her, and that's important. The facade involved in stripping isn't so much a matter of creating precious, unattainable goddesses but presenting women who are blank slates for whom one can feel desire, hatred, or indifference without having to be bothered over who the woman actually is. Zada tries to sketch herself onto that slate here, and it's not that she doesn't succeed, but that you're left wondering, to what end? Chances are the fact that strippers are people, too, isn't news to anyone but the most callow of club patrons, and the misadventures recounted here, while interesting, aren't quite enough of a train wreck to supply the guilty pleasure of misfortune-voyeurism. Absent that but having denied us the mindless distraction of anonymous bouncing titties, we're left with a memoir about, essentially, someone's really shitty job.