The New York Times Book Review's description of Pretty Baby captures what I wanted to do: to write a memoir that's "as much about money and financial precarity as it is about sex and sexuality." Pretty Baby moves between the worlds of sex work and academia, demonstrating that the two—marked by a respectability politics born of classism and misogyny—are more similar than one might think. I unpack the ways that laborers are expected to deny parts of themselves: in academia, the life of the mind often requires a denial of the body; in sex work, bodily labor sometimes requires a silencing of the mind.
But the book's origin point is in neither the BDSM dungeon nor the classroom: Pretty Baby is a queer bildungsroman. It follows my experience as a young girl in Appalachia navigating the dangers that men and boys posed to my developing sexuality, but it resists the structure of a more traditional memoir that would move toward a triumphantly cohesive self, with questions of gender and sexuality settled in adulthood. Instead, it narrates a life spent defining, then re-defining, what it means to be feminine, what it means to be a feminist, how it feels to be queer.