Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book E: Fabookulous December 27, 2011

Scars and Stilettos: The Transformation of an Exotic Dancer by Harmony Dust

Book description:

Fear of being abandoned keeps nineteen-year-old Harmony Dust trapped in an abusive and cruel relationship. She thinks she has hit bottom-tens of thousands of dollars in debt, struggling to get by, and so controlled by her boyfriend that she doesn’t protest when he begins openly sleeping around. Things can’t get worse . . . until someone tells her how much money she can make as an exotic dancer. For the next three years, Harmony lives a double life as Monique, a dancer in a fully-nude strip club.
 
Ok, I didn’t plan my letters appropriately and needed to use “E” for this one, you know, EXOTIC dancer. A stretch? I think not…
 
Anyway, this may be my last review on here as I believe LibraryLove and I will be saying goodbye to our blogging days in 2012. Neither of us completed this year’s challenge, but hey, life got busy. And in case you forgot, we BOTH read 52 books EACH in 2010. I’ll pause for applause… HA!
 
Ok, back to the review. Scars and Stilettos is a true story of a friend of a friend of mine. Once consumed by her need of approval from her boyfriend, Harmony found herself misguided and caught up in a vicious, dark cycle. Having read this book after Shelley Lubben’s autobiography, this one is very G rated. Same messaging (Christ’s redeeming love and power), yet much gentler story telling. Surely, anyone can relate in the sense that we all find ourselves at times seeking validation from other people or things. Maybe it’s your spouse, partner, fiance; maybe you are married to your job, home, car, material things; maybe it’s an addiction you seek acceptance from. The fact is, we can all find something in our lives that hold us victim at one time or another.
 
For Harmony, it was her boyfriend who dominated her for YEARS. This cat even got another girl pregnant, moved her into the apartment Harmony was paying for (and they lived in together), and then had the audacity to ask her to get him his own place because “he needed more room as a father.” And all of this supported by her stripping career. Are you kidding me?! (Easy to say that as an outsider, but imagine the background and what gets one to that place of desperation) As I’ve read more than one memoir of those in the sex industry (Shelley Lubben, Jenna Jameson, etc) it’s a classic history of sexual abuse, neglect, rape, father issues, drug abuse, and/or abandonment. So it is with Harmony.
 
While very sad indeed, what is compelling, uplifting and encouraging is God’s faithfulness through the dark valleys. He remains committed to us even IN the dark places. I love when Harmony points out that we don’t have to “get our act together” before God loves us. He always has and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can get ourselves out of the muck and mire. Having been to Harmony’s church, Oasis, in LA, I understand how she felt God’s presence so powerfully. I attended a GodChicks conference there in 2007 when a friend of mine was living in LA. Pastors Philip and Holly Wagner have such an inviting presence to them that makes you feel loved, accepted and valued.
 
Which is precisely what Harmony is now doing with Treasures, her non-profit, faith-based support group and outreach for women in the sex industry. She is setting out to teach these women in the over 170 strip clubs they visit annually, that they are valued, loved and purposed. The Bible tells us that God never wastes a hurt. And Harmony’s testimony proves just that–she is an amazing woman of God doing wonderful things that she could only do having gone through her dark places.
 
Thank you for sharing your story and for committing to serve other women in the hopes of turning their lives around too.
 
5/5 stars
 
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Book B: Fabookulous December 19, 2011

Truth Behind the Fantasy of Porn: The Greatest Illusion on Earth by Shelley Lubben

Book description:

In Truth Behind the Fantasy of Porn, former porn actress Shelley Lubben rips the seductive mask off of pornography and exposes the hardcore truth behind the “greatest illusion on earth”. Her spectacular journey from childhood to sexual abuse to prostitution to the deadly unglamorous realm of porn sets, Shelley is brutally honest about her past. But that’s not all. Having escaped the porn industry at 26, Shelley now shares her powerful story of redemption offering a message of hope to the entire world. The first ever book exposing the “secret” side of porn, Shelley wants you to know the hardcore truth. Pornography is modern day slavery for thousands of women and the millions of porn addicts who can’t stop clicking. But you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free!

This book was an interesting and intriguing find for me. I discovered it when purchasing “Scars and Stilettos” by Harmony Dust on Amazon.com. Harmony is a friend of a friend and I’d heard about her powerful testimony as a redeemed stripper. When I ordered a copy of her book, Amazon suggested I purchase Shelley Lubben’s book with it. A redeemed porn actress? Intriguing. And talk about humbling.

So I ordered my package deal and waited for my delivery. Once these books arrived, I did not put Lubben’s book down until I finished it yesterday on my birthday. (Parties can wait–I was in the middle of a good book…)

A stripper, prostitute, and porn star, Lubben lived years of her life in a deep, dark hole struggling with alcoholism, drugs, unwanted pregnancies, abuse, neglect and a sense of desperation you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. In a nutshell? A classic porn star’s background. And I don’t mean that to be insensitive or cold. However, when women come from a past as broken as some of today’s porn stars and have this inner desire, inner NEED, to find validation from others (men or women) they can lose their sense of value and self and seek it anywhere they can. Shelley’s first “trick” paid her $35. And just like that, she began a destructive path of selling her body and trading her soul.

The star rating I gave this book is on the low side because to be perfectly honest, I’m still nauseous from the graphic detail of stories such as how she conceived her first daughter, her first filmed scene, and some of the rough abuse she and other porn actresses have suffered through. But similar to my thoughts on Precious (whether it’s true or not–that’s another story), maybe some stories can’t be told without the gritty detail. And I do mean grit. Like, eyes wide open, one eye closed maybe, holding the book away from you, wanting to take a shower and wash yourself from what you just read gritty. Like “women actually do this and suffer through this?” and “how does one get to this place–what must be going on in their mind?” Am I being too sensitive? I don’t think so…

The porn industry is a $70 BILLION DOLLARS a year industry. That is more than all professional sports combined. Is this for real?? This is our number one entertainment in today’s world? I don’t mean to get off on a soap box, but everytime you click on a porn site, buy a magazine, rent a video (gross–think of who else has “rented” them), you are contributing to the degradation of thousands of women stuck in a vicious cycle. What is hard to understand is how porn stars like Jenna Jameson can make no apologies for their career, show no signs of guilt, rather think they are quite the business women, and then there are others who are crying–literally crying. Crying in pain, crying in agony, crying for their souls, crying. Screaming. How do they deal with it? Drugs. Alcohol. Whatever numbs the pain to make it even a percent enjoyable so you can get through it and get your paycheck to cover your rent, or feed that unwanted baby, or, as sad as it may be, get that next high.

Shelley will take you through her dark experiences (and she’s got some dark ones– she contracted herpes, a non-curable disease that resulted in early cervical cancer where half of her cervix was removed), to the rejection of her parents, and her near deadly experience in a Mexican brothel.

But what is ASTOUNDING (and I mean ASTOUNDING–what word is better than that, I’m not sure), is how God proved faithful to Shelley even on set. Even in the dark alleys, even when prostituting herself. God was there. Whispering to her, protecting her from even WORSE consequences (and yes, there were some–wait until she recalls in hindsight toward the end of the book). God kept her near Him and proved the promise in the Bible when it tells us to raise a child in the way he/she is to go and when he/she is older they will not depart from it. Praise God that Shelley had childhood church experiences where she fell in love with Jesus early on! But hey, any Christian will tell you it’s easy to wander and stray as we get older, gain freedom, seek acceptance among our peers, etc. Some just take it a lot farther than others.

Shelley is herpes-free (can you attribute that to anything other than God?!), married and with 3 daughters. Her first-born (who was conceived during one of her nights prostituting) writes a chapter in the book as well about her pain from porn– including her mother’s boyfriends molesting her and attempts at suicide.

Devastating most of the time, readers cannot deny the power of God in Shelley’s life. And the biggest takeaway message for me? If God can prove faithful to Shelley during her years stripping for strangers, sleeping with strangers for money, and engaging in rough sex acts on film that will stay forever, and then redeem her and give her a powerful ministry because of it… well, then God is faithful to ALL of us and can use ALL of us. How could anybody read this book and NOT take that message away? However, if this isn’t the message you hope to receive, I’d advise to tread lightly–this book is not for sensitive readers.

Sometimes the very thing we work hardest to escape is the very thing God can heal us from and call us BACK to to minister to others still trapped in the vicious cycle. And that’s exactly what He did and is still doing in Shelley’s life. Bravo, Shelley, for sharing your painful story. I know that couldn’t have been easy, but God is the perfect Healer and Redeemer. Praise Him for rescuing you and keeping you near! Praying for you and your family this holiday season to know a joy and peace you’ve never felt as you bask in the glory of His presence.

3/5 stars

Fabookulous

 

Book C: Fabookulous

The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel

Book description:

‘The more I looked, the more I found Christian Atheists everywhere.’ Former Christian Atheist Craig Groeschel knows his subject all too well. After over a decade of successful ministry, he had to make a painful self admission: although he believed in God, he was leading his church like God didn’t exist. To Christians and non-Christians alike, to the churched and the unchurched, the journey leading up to Groeschel’s admission and the journey that follows—from his family and his upbringing to the lackluster and even diametrically opposed expressions of faith he encountered—will look and sound like the story of their own lives. Now the founding and senior pastor of the multicampus, pace-setting LiveChurch.tv, Groeschel personal journey toward a more authentic God-honoring life is more relevant than ever. Christians and Christian Atheists everywhere will be nodding their heads as they are challenged to take their own honest moment and ask the question: am I putting my whole faith in God but still living as if everything was up to me?
 
A phenomenal read–I agree with a quote on the cover–this book is a classic in the making! The Christian Atheist will challenge you to wake up and LIVE like you actually believe in God. Some of the chapter highlights include “Believing in God but Still Worrying All the Time”, “Believing in God but You Can’t Get Over Your Past”, “Believing God but Seeking Happiness at Any Cost”, etc…Stop going to church for the formality of it and explore a rich relationship with God! We allow ourselves to grow so numb and so used to “our way” that we never REALLY change our lives. Live every part of your life as a follower of Christ, Sunday-Saturday. This book will wake you up, challenge you with some (hard) truths (at times). For me personally, this one just earned a spot on my top 5 list of all time! (And considering I read 52 books in 2010, that’s an exclusive list to be on….just sayin) 😉

 
5/5 stars
Fabookulous