The title of this fascinating memoir stems from the fact that the author, Chris Belcher, took first place in a baby beauty contest in her working-class West Virginia home town of 1,600. Her life after that has been unusual as she worked her way through a PhD program in English at the University of Southern California by pursuing sex work and branding herself as LA’s Renowned Lesbian Dominatrix. “Chris Belcher's Pretty Baby reminds me why I fell in love with memoirs in the first place. Sentence by knife-sharpened sentence, the personal history she examines makes space for both the ferocity of her past selves and the resonance of who she is now. With wit, seductive candor and a willingness to question the very answers she used to swear by, Belcher doesn’t just hand us her story; she demands that we interrogate ourselves in the process.” —Saeed Jones. “Pretty Baby is an unflinching, layered exploration of sexuality, queerness, and power that isn’t afraid of gray areas or contradictions, honest in its blurred lines as it moves between realms: between a rural blue-collar upbringing and academia, between academia and sex work, between sex work and sex.” —Lilly Dancyger. “Captivating . . . Belcher’s pen is at once graceful and scathing as it prods the complexities of desire—the ever-present dangers of straight maleness, the sometimes-complicated haven of female queerness.” —Michelle Hart. “Pretty Baby is a taut and intelligent story of defining one’s selfhood and relationship ideals while toggling between the seemingly disparate worlds of sex work and academia, which are (of course) more similar than many would think. It is also an engrossing queer bildungsroman whose nervy, sympathetic protagonist had my heart from page one.” —Melissa Febos.
NewYork: Avid Reader Press/Simon and Schuster, 2022. 260 pages. Hardback in dust jacket.