Title: Some Girls: My Life in a Harem
Author: Jillian Lauren
Narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Publication Year: 2010
Pages: 352 (audio length: 8 hours 38 minutes)
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Source: Audiobook purchased from Audible.com
From the cover:
A jaw-dropping story of how a girl from the suburbs ends up in a prince’s harem, and emerges from the secret Xanadu both richer and wiser.
At eighteen, Jillian Lauren was an NYU theater school dropout with a tip about an upcoming audition. The “casting director” told her that a rich businessman in Singapore would pay pretty American girls $20,000 if they stayed for two weeks to spice up his parties. Soon, Jillian was on a plane to Borneo, where she would spend the next eighteen months in the harem of Prince Jefri Bolkiah, youngest brother of the Sultan of Brunei, leaving behind her gritty East Village apartment for a palace with rugs laced with gold and trading her band of artist friends for a coterie of backstabbing beauties.
More than just a sexy read set in an exotic land, Some Girls is also the story of how a rebellious teen found herself – and the courage to meet her birth mother and eventually adopt a baby boy.
First of all, let’s get something straight – that little blurb up there doesn’t tell the whole truth. The bit where it says that Lauren was a “theater school dropout with a tip about an upcoming audition”? Yes, it’s true … but it doesn’t tell you that, in between dropping out and getting the tip about the audition, she worked as a stripper and an escort, and the “tip” came from a woman who had helped her get the escort job after working with her on a horrible indie lesbian vampire movie where they all ran around topless for the camera.
Now, I’m not at all saying that Lauren’s experience wasn’t interesting or entertaining to read about. (It totally was.) All I’m saying is, let’s be more honest and upfront about the set up. I went into this book expecting to hear about how the author went from an innocent co-ed to a surprised harem girl who hadn’t known what she was getting into, and that’s not altogether true. In Some Girls, the author doesn’t know at first that she is auditioning to take part in a Prince’s parties, but she does after she’s offered the job (and before she goes there). So don’t go into reading this thinking that she’s a poor, misguided girl sucked into sex work.
Having said that, I really enjoyed the parts of the story that were about her experience in the “harem”. Sure, some of the set-up story was okay – and sometimes necessary – in the grand scheme of things. It fleshed out Lauren’s story. But the real meat was in the anecdotes about her sex work and the relationships that she built while working in Brunei. And it was definitely an eye-opening story about the real-life experiences that happen even in our modern world, where we normally wouldn’t expect them to.
So if you’re going to read the book, do it for the story, but not for the shock value. I initially chose to listen to Some Girls because the concept seemed interesting, and ended up enjoying it because of the storytelling and the narrator’s interpretation. If the premise of this memoir sounds interesting to you, go for it!