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Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian…

Some Girls: My Life in a Harem (edition 2010)

by Jillian Lauren

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3802628,382 (3.33)1 / 24
Title:Some Girls: My Life in a Harem
Authors:Jillian Lauren
Info:Plume (2010), Edition: 1, Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Library, Read But Need To Buy, Your library
Tags:Read In 2013, Non-Fiction, Autobiography, Brunei, Borneo, Asia, Harems, Memoir, Prostitution, Sex Industry, Sex Workers, Women, 21st Century

Work details

Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren

  1. 00
    For A Dancer: The Memoir by Emma J Stephens (elizabeth.a.coates)
    elizabeth.a.coates: Both are true stories, both writers experience many barriers, same frank tone.

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account of a teenager who graduated from New York escorting to joining the girls maintained by the Sultan of Brunei's younger brother in his palace, providing company and occasional sex. As one might expect, there was a constant jockeying for position, with one woman (who we are told was a former Filipino soap star) ensconced as #1 girlfriend until she decided to leave; Jillian Lauren describes her own short-lived ascent to the position of #2 girlfriend, and one senses that her heart was not in the intense political and emotional combat with her co-workers which would have been necessary to maintain that position. She got a decent amount of cash and vast amounts of material goods in return for being available for sex with the prince at his whim, before she too decided that she had had enough and moved back to the USA.

Given that harems have been a part of how courts operate in many different cultures throughout history, it is interesting to read this very recent account. Of course, the girls in Brunei were able to leave much more easily than most historical harem women were; they were paid handsomely for staying (though they were also under strict orders not to leave the palace, which is the only coercive element reported), and one suspects that the royal family's external agents got a decent commission as well for finding them. The voices of sex workers are pretty silent in general, and it's refreshing to read a story that packs in so much without being titillating.

Lauren waited fifteen years to publish her account, which perhaps gave her the necessary perspective to make it a clear-eyed coming-of-age story. It's uncomfortable reading in places - particularly, I found, in the American sections at the beginning and end, rather than the Brunei episodes which are too different from my own experience to do more than boggle at. A farly brief and breezy read, which you finish with a strong sense that the author is glad to have put it all behind her. ( )
  nwhyte | Oct 27, 2014 |
After stumbling upon this book in a thrift shop, I couldn't believe that I had never heard of it before, and began reading it the same day.

When I first read the subtitle, "My Life in a Harem," I assumed that this would be the sensational memoir of a girl who is conned and held against her will in sexual slavery in a strange country. The description on the back cover seemed to allude to this as well, but in truth the book is more of a sexy harem tale than anything reminiscent of Taken.

At the beginning of her memoir, Lauren is a young NYU dropout who dreams of finding her big break into acting and stardom. Meanwhile, she pays the bills working in the sex industry, mainly as a stripper, but also as the occasional (nude) extra in amateur films. A girl she meets on the set of a lesbian vampire movie tells her to try escorting - where you make more money and have more fun, apparently. Escorting takes Lauren through limousines and expensive Manhattan hotels, until she attends a "casting call" for a job as a party ornament for a rich Singapore businessman. The job pays $20,000 for 2 weeks.
Lauren jumps in, and on the plane to Singapore is told that she will actually be headed for Brunei, home of the richest family in the world, and will be attending parties held not by a businessman but by Prince Jefri Bokiah.
It doesn't take Lauren long to realize that she is in a harem, a role and atmosphere that she falls into with relish, enjoying all of the beauty and luxury that life in a Sultan's palace has to offer.

The descriptions of harem life were fascinating, and Lauren is, if not always grammatically correct or the most literary writer on the planet, a plucky and refreshingly honest, straightforward narrator. She's someone that you can't help but find yourself liking and rooting for.
She has had a hard life: adopted and thus dealing with issues about commitment and self worth, an abusive father, light drug use, eating disorders, and coming into the stripping world at the age of 15. However, she tells the reader her story without ever falling into a tone of self pity: she is simply stating the facts as they are.
Though I can't remember the exact wording, she once says that she will never be the prettiest girl, or the skinniest, or the most voluptuous, or the smartest. She's just an ordinary girl-next-door with nothing all that remarkable about her, but she knows how to sell it. I was struck by her candor.

For readers looking for a book that will condemn the sex industry, slam the way that women are treated and objectified today, and caution girls against falling into such avenues, you won't find it here.
I wouldn't say that Lauren glorifies stripping and escorting, but she certainly doesn't go into long speeches on the evils of it. Stripping is a job, and the fact that she began at 15 is never communicated as morally wrong or any worse than beginning at 18. Though she never goes into actual descriptions of sex in her escort work, she does tell us plenty about limo rides, champagne, ritzy hotels, and her breathless feeling of doing something daring, almost deliciously so.
While in Brunei, Lauren is far from an unwilling or even reluctant captive, savoring the ostentation of the palace rooms that are now her home, competing with other beauties for the Prince's attentions, and even entertaining dreams of falling in love with Jefri, and he with her, as impossible as she knows them to be. The nights that she spends with Jefri are written like fond memories with a past lover, their sexual encounters written in a way that makes you suspect Lauren still has fantasies about them. She is proud of the fact that she is making hundreds of thousands of dollars lounging around at parties in sexy dresses and spending a few nights here and there in the bed of a handsome prince - and she certainly doesn't see the need to apologize for it.

A very interesting, unique memoir that I enjoyed reading. ( )
2 vote joririchardson | Oct 16, 2014 |
I love reading memoirs from sex workers, but I admit that I was disappointed with this book. It had trouble holding my attention, which is very rare for me.

Truthfully, it wasn't the topic matter that disappointed me, and I could even have looked over the bits I found boring such as the endless gossiping and listing of things she bought, but it just held no emotion. I'm not entirely sure when she penned the book, as the events take place in 1991 and this book was published in 2010, but it lacked a lot of emotion. It couldn't draw me in because it felt like it was a second hand retelling of what happened. This contrasted with the fact that there was a bunch of meaningless facts about her past that sought to show us what type of life she led but instead just fell flat.

I really wanted to like this book, but I just couldn't feel connected to the author. ( )
  jmkeep | Jul 27, 2013 |
I don’t like the ending. I don’t like how it is so happy and perfect and surreal. This book, to me, was – is – about the ugliness of this world, about the harsh realities some people have to go through every day, about the fact that everything becomes meaningless to a person after time. It was not about having a loving husband, or adopting a beautiful baby boy, or finding a happy ending.

The Summary

For those who haven’t yet read this book, this contains some mild spoilers.
For those who have read this book, this is slightly biased as it is coloured by my personal opinion

Jill is a stripper. A hooker. A prostitute – however you want to call her. She is constantly down on cash, is an aspiring actress whose only notable role is a cheerleader at a cheap porno flick. After joining an escort agency through one of the other actresses also playing a role in the movie, she is offered a chance to go to Brunei and party for two weeks and get an outrageous amount of money in exchange for entertaining his Royal Highness Prince Jefri Bolkiah.

Whilst there, she gets the prince’s attention and thus extends her stay by another week, another month, another two months. Then she realizes that she misses New York and makes up some excuse about her father being in a life threatening situation and flying home. Again, she extends her stay in New York constantly, and goes through an abortion, a tattoo, and the rest of her money whilst she is there.

Flying back to Brunei, she realizes that she no longer hold the prince’s affections and that, basically, a lot has changed. One of the other American girls there give her the name of an agency and she flies home to find her biological mother.

The Review
I was not that impressed with the story. The plot sounded interesting, yes, but there isn’t actually as much about Brunei as one might expect from the summary. This book is basically about Jillian whining about her life, how she sinks into depression if her scenery doesn’t change every two months and how her boyfriend didn’t care enough for her.

This book would’ve gotten two, three stars if everything in it weren’t true. The fact that she managed to find the courage within herself to write this book makes me add at least one star to my rating – after all, in fiction you can be endlessly creative, you can write about minuscule detail, but in non-fiction, or rather, in autobiographical memoirs, all you can write is what you know, what you remember.

I think is book is a good book – it is great if you look at it from the point of a memoir, but not so good if you look at it as a book you’re reading. It’s really brave of Jillian Lauren to lay her life bare before thousands, if not millions of readers about the globe, and, well, what can I say now except that I wish her husband, son and her a good life? ( )
  Joyce.Leung | May 24, 2013 |
At age eighteen Lauren dropped out of NYU, and went to Brunei to join the royal harem. Her duties were to look beautiful at nightly parties, and be sexually available to the sultan's younger brother. In return she received expensive clothes and gifts.

The world of the Brunei royal family is a strange one. Women from all over the world jockey, fight, and manipulate for position within the harem. They live together in communal houses that could rival the cattiest sorority. The women are not allowed to leave the compound unescorted.

Essentially this struck me as a case of adolescent rebellion on a grand scale. The Brunei harem was fairly grotesque. Still, I enjoyed this look into a totally bizarre life. It was disturbing how disposable the women in the harem were. Some lasted weeks, others months. All of them seemed to be chasing a completely unattainable goal- to become one of the royal wives. None of them would. ( )
  lahochstetler | May 11, 2013 |
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The Shah's wife was unfaithful to him, so he cut off her head and summarily declared all women to be evil and thereby deserving of punishment.
I spotted my fellow traveler Destiny from behind as she waited on a long check-in queue.  Her teased hair aspired to brush the skylights and she wore a spandex tube dress that shifted from neon pink to neon orange, like a tropical sunset.  The top of her dress smooshed her boobs into one amorphous form.  My mothers says tops like that make your bust look like a loaf of challah.  Destiny's loaf of challah would have fed a developing country.  I gave her a quick hug and noted that she reeked of Aqua Net and Amarige.  I was traveling with a superstripper.  So much for anonymity, for mystery and the fluid identity that travel allows.
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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)

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An edition of this book was published by Plume.

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