Some Girls

Some Girls (Photo: Penguin US)Some Girls: My Life in a Harem got a lot of press when it first came out three-ish years ago, and I remember at the time thinking that I should reserve it at the library.

But then, as with many things, it just sort of slipped my mind and I completely forgot about it until I was leafing through the magazines at Shopper’s Drug Mart last weekend and happened to come across it on a book rack. I read the back and it piqued my interest again, but I didn’t really want to walk around with a book that said ‘harem’ on the front cover. So I did the modern girl cop-out. I went home and bought it on my Kindle.

I’m a firm believer in the power of the memoir because if you happen to be a smart, capable and open-minded reader, you can live vicariously through the experiences of others and learn from them without ever having to leave your living room. With this in mind, thank goodness for Jillian Lauren, whose beautifully-crafted story is full of lessons.

It would be easy to boil the summary of these lessons down to ‘don’t go to Brunei to join the sultan’s harem’ or ‘maybe Patti Smith isn’t the best guardian angel for you to imagine for yourself’ or something similar. But there’s much more to Some Girls than this. It is the story of a young woman’s quest to find herself.

Sure, her methods are unorthodox and her adventures are extreme. Would I have made the same choices as Jillian Lauren? Absolutely not. I don’t think I’m brave enough, or foolish enough, to make the decisions she made (and yes, I think she is both of these things, probably in equal measure in total, though different levels of bravery and foolishness shine out at different points of the story). But the thing I thought was interesting is that Jillian Lauren started out as a kid in the suburbs, too. Our paths didn’t go in the same direction, thank goodness, but this sort of experience gives you the thought that it could have happened to you if you were dealt a different hand of cards in life. It could have been me. It could have been any of us.

What I value most in nonfiction writing is honesty, and this she brings to the table in spades.I think that she acknowledges her recklessness really bravely (check out this really frank interview she did for Smith magazine back in 2010, or the five-question interview she did for She Writes around the same time). I don’t envy Jillian Lauren her experiences, but I am thankful she has shared them. This was a fascinating read.

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