Two Decades Naked by Leigh Hopkinson
Review by Alessandra Izzo
After reading this book, I knew I was going to struggle reviewing it.
The thing is, while I don’t know Leigh Hopkinson personally, I knew so many of the people who feature in this book.
I knew the shifty but charismatic strip club owner. I knew the regular who wanted to fool himself into thinking they had a relationship. I knew the boyfriend who tried valiantly but struggled to cope with his girlfriend working clubs. I knew the parents who could find no other way to deal with their daughters’ truth but to ignore it and hope it would go away, letting their relationship slip through the cracks along with their discomfort.
I knew Holly – the youthful, fresh-faced dancer… Punch-drunk on the mirage of projected male adoration. Carefree, naive, happy-go-lucky and adventurous. Trying to keep her head on her shoulders but unaware of the minefield she was navigating.
I knew Juliette – the young, but established and driven worker… Crunching the numbers, striving towards her goals, sometimes learning the hard way that work would overstep her boundaries if she wasn’t vigilant.
I knew Jasmine – the work-weary, jaded stripper… Relying on regulars and avoiding customers to get through a shift. Allowing her boundaries to be compromised in order to continue on in a job she knows is well past its use by date.
It didn’t matter to me that I had no idea precisely who these people were – I was Leigh’s neighbour in the industry for almost ten years myself. The familiarity of her experience was a fascinating page-turner for me. In fact, I barely put the book down and devoured it within almost 24 hours.
The writing was good. Her style was interesting with a touch of quirk, but most of all deliciously accurate. She represented the “alternate universe” of the endless, adults-only carousel ride which is the strip club experience from the point of view of a dancer in meticulous detail. Of course, she knew it for twenty years. But this book brings that world to life in such a visceral way that I believe any reader would be able to live it through her eyes.
As a dancer, it was particularly interesting to read an intimate account of someone else’s experience in an industry I knew so well. This is why I despaired on how to review this book.
For those of you who have been part of the industry, it’s a no brainer. You too will recognise so many people from this book. The sex industry is a very tough mistress, and I believe nobody gets through it unscathed. I think this book was probably great therapy to write, and likewise I think it brings up lots of opportunities for self-reflection for anyone with experience as a dancer.
It’s hard for me to know exactly what this book will give to someone who doesn’t already know the stripper life. But of one thing I’m sure – I have never come across anything which describes the experience so accurately. If you are interested in what the life of a table dancer entails, read this book. While we all have a different approach to the job, Leigh’s journey explores all the archetypes of the stripper and allows you to be the fly on the wall you would never otherwise be.
As a character she is blissfully flawed. Her travails through several alter-egos, various countries and different relationships are, like most strippers I have known, a hectic and surreal adventure with never a dull moment and plenty of adversity. Her personality is quite measured, and sometimes verging on cold, so as a reader I really hoped that she managed to open her heart once the merry-go-round stopped.
The story is a memoir, so while I would have liked some kind of climax, in the end I felt slightly disheartened. The ending itself was as true a depiction of the journey as the rest of the book had been. However, I would have liked a little more dissection of what it had all meant to her, what perspectives she had gained since leaving or some kind of post-experience reflection. I must admit though, this reaction could be a result of my own personal processing stimulated by the read, and how the book became a walk down memory lane for me.
But, overall, I was left with a solid appreciation for all the girls who raise a big old middle finger to the judgemental glare of society, and fearlessly give themselves permission to explore a life which is unapologetically unique.
Thanks to the author and www.hachette.co.nz for providing a copy of the book for us to read.
You can purchase the book via Booktopia here.
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