One of Salon.com's Best Books of 2001.
One of Entertainment Weekly's Best Books of 2001.
Synopses & Reviews
The ultimate road trip; a daring and disarmingly honest odyssey across America with an ex-stripper who dusts off her dancing shoes for a farewell tour.
Lily Burana had been working as a journalist for five years when, on a cross-country assignment, she meets a cowboy in Cheyenne, Wyoming. They fall in love quickly, and in short order he proposes to her. Her cowboy doesn't flinch when she tells him about her past, but as the reality of the engagement sets in, Burana realizes that she can't settle down until she comes to terms with the business of stripping the controversial but exhilarating crucible in which she came of age. She packs up a hairpiece, hairspray, Lucite platforms, garters, neon thongs, and body glitter, and enrolls in a stripping academy to perfect her routine. Zigzagging across America from the topflight gentlemen's clubs of Dallas to the blue-collar go-go bars of New Jersey, from Anchorage to Tijuana, Las Vegas to Los Angeles, she even competes in the Miss Topless Wyoming competition. Along the way, she seeks out a host of colorful women who share with her the unwritten history of striptease: an over-looked and under-recorded American art form. And what she discovers about the business, about the culture of strip clubs, and about herself is truly remarkable.
While on the road, she recalls her start in the peep shows of Times Square and her groundbreaking legal battle for strippers' rights, waged against one of the most notorious strip club owners in the country. With the benefit of her independence and experience, she's shocked to learn how much, yet how little, the world of striptease has changed. Insightful and reflective, Burana describes the clubs and bars, the patrons and other dancers in striking detail, and takes us into the nitty-gritty of a dancer's life, bringing to light the variety of techniques and tricks of the trade.
Burana writes with immediacy and candor; hard-won wisdom and hard-bitten humor; a novelist's voice and a journalist's eye. Strip City is a shrewd take, free of illusion, on the darker, seamier side of America. She effortlessly conveys the atmosphere of a seedy strip joint; the exhilaration of a dancer on stage when she gets into her zone; and ultimately the complex emotional repercussions that arise when a woman takes off her clothes for money.
"[Burana] has a good ear, a fine wit and an instinct for storytelling....Stripping means 'reclaiming [her] sexuality in the public arena' which is exactly what this book does, too. Burana exposes herself with pride, style and a great sense of humor." Publishers Weekly
"Burana's first book isn't quite the bawdy romp implied by its subtitle....Burana isn't satisfied with simply stripping and telling....She wants to examine the ways that an involvement with the sex trade has affected her own life and the lives of other women, to understand the psychic price that is paid for the considerable rewards that are gained, and to come to terms with her past. She doesn't quite reach the closure she seeks, and her feelings about stripping remain stubbornly ambivalent, but her search for answers is always entertaining." Booklist
"Candid, juicy, streetwise prose...(Lily Burana) has the storyteller's gift." The New York Times Book Review
"Engaging memoir of a former stripper's last fling with the profession....With appealing grace and humor, Burana sidesteps the pitfalls of writing about stripping sensationalism, preachy moralism, self-righteousness and instead ponders the historical and social complexities of such a ubiquitous, shadowy trade. With a deft touch, she answers the questions that you'd expect from a thoughtful stripper: How did you get into this? How does it feel? Don't you have any self-respect? And Burana is even-handed: for all the affirmative sisterhood-is-powerful moments, there is a flip side: the weariness of 'stripper damage,' with its 'self-hatred as wide and deep as the sea.' And always present is the pressure to remain glamorous-drilling out a belt buckle so it can be easily ripped open onstage, the requisite hours on the tanning bed, endless maintenance of hair and nails, and mirrored velvet bikinis....Remarkably well-done: a complex and warm insider's take on a booming industry." Kirkus Reviews
"What a provocative book...this quest doesn't smack of gimmickry." Entertainment Weekly
"[F]unny, ardently Americana, and intelligent." San Francisco Chronicle
"An artful expose." Glamour
"Her stories are like candy, or irresistible clues: I keep wanting to follow her into the next club, the next spandex sheath, the next con. She is unparalleled at describing the feminist exhibitionist's rush, the self-creation of the perfect erotic bubble, the crash of customer/working girl reality. There's not a naked girl in America who wouldn't recognize herself in Lily's words." Susie Bright, author of Full Exposure
"Strip City is a strange, beautiful, and soulful book....It is funny, vulnerable, painful, gutsy, and very entertaining. But it is also something else: a sometimes confused, even tormented quest for what it means to be female, sexually female, in this post-feminist, politically correct, neo-conservative, empowered, and exhausted time. It is fascinating and, for all its playfulness, important." Mary Gaitskill, author of Bad Behavior and Because They Wanted To
"With a premise that makes it sound like one of publishing's typical throwaway books about a sexy topic a former stripper about to be wed makes one final ecdysiastic road trip across America this memoir never stoops to clichés or easy choices. Burana keeps pushing herself to unearth the fundamental nature of her mercurial love-hate relationship with the work that helped her survive in her first years away from home, gave her a renegade subculture to satisfy her yen for rebellion, and rattled her to the core by exposing her to the raw edge of human neediness. Like all rigorously honest works, Strip City is unlikely to suit anyone's political agenda, but it's so full of rowdy energy and unaffected soul-searching that only a hopeless ideologue could object to it. Furthermore, Burana can really write her descriptions of the truck stops, dives, and swank joints she travels through have all the slangy eloquence required by great American road stories. And she's hilarious, a brainy, brassy dame with a penchant for heavy metal who sheds wisecracks left and right with an insouciance the rest of us can only envy." Laura Miller, "Best Books of 2001," Salon.com
About the Author
Lily Burana has written for the New York Times Book Review, GQ, New York magazine, the Village Voice, Spin, and Salon. She lives in Wyoming and New York State.