Take Me with You, By Vanessa Carlisle, 316 pgs.

Sep 16, 2021

This novel follows queer sex worker Kindred Powell, before and after her life is turned upside down. When her activist father goes missing, she can’t go to the cops; they might have been the ones to disappear him. Do you dare follow her twisting path below the surface of the straight world into the unexposed spaces where outlaws and outcasts survive hidden from society? C’mon. We’re going in. Be cool, just follow her lead.  

Go to prison, but just to visit. Catch a first-class flight to Hawai’i. Glamour, luxury, all expenses paid, but remember to control the sexual dynamic at all times. This will be difficult, but lucrative. Don’t let them see you sniffle. Survive the gritty streets of New York City, find safety, find work, find community, find love, but don’t forget to finish reading your revolutionary homework. Learn how to use a strap-on. Learn how to fight The Man. Stalk the streets of Skid Row all night, looking for answers. Remember whose child you are.

In this post-truth era of misinformation, in the wake of a disastrous federal “sex trafficking” law, FOSTA-SESTA, so misguided and patronizing that it’s killing the vulnerable population it claims to protect, this is a rare novel about sex workers written by a sex worker, a much-needed report from the frontlines of the world’s oldest profession. Carlisle doesn’t care what you expect, what one-note morality story your simple heart wants; you’re going to get the full complexity of what sex workers know about power and consent and sex that perhaps the rest of society has confused themselves into not knowing.

This book is a well-paced page-turner, an act of generosity, admittance to underground spaces full of kink, municipal corruption, mystery, and delicious insight. The author told me, “It’s a trauma book.” And certainly, many of the characters have been marked and changed by trauma. But they are survivors and hustlers, resilient and human. Most don’t see themselves as victims. Displaced, defrauded, lustily desired, obscured from the public eye; they see society’s distorted falsehoods and unacknowledged hungers more clearly from the shadows. –Jessie MNG Lopez (Running Wild Press, runningwildpress.com, $20)

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