Books: Stripper’s memoir an eloquent chronicle of paid labor

Author’s well-crafted work offers a clear-eyed understanding of what makes a choice to do sex work a desirable option for some

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This Is My Real Name: A Stripper’s Memoir

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Cid V Brunet | Arsenal Pulp Press (Vancouver, 2021)

$22.95 | 287pp

They called her Michelle. That was Cid V Brunet’s “stripper name” for a decade at the clubs across Canada where she worked.

In this eloquent and detailed memoir of 10 years in sex work, Brunet details what she did, saw and heard during that decade. “Heard” is an important word here, because one of Brunet’s authorial superpowers is an accurate ear for dialogue.

In This Is My Real Name, this gifted young writer’s first book, much of what the reader comes to know about the author and her circle is conveyed in persuasively authentic snippets of dialogue. Writing dialogue that works on the page is a daunting challenge for all authors. It is much harder than it appears.

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But Brunet rises to the dialogue challenge magnificently. Whether the speaker is a predatory bar owner, a creepy lap-dance customer, one of the other strippers she works with or her beloved husband Luke, every voice in this remarkable memoir rings true and adds to the richness of character and human depth that is such an impressive feature of Brunet’s well-crafted text.

Some readers will be surprised to learn that the author came to stripping as a punk-identifying young woman with a sophisticated political understanding of the gendered power dynamics in play in society at large and in the strip clubs that were her workplace. She takes for granted that what she is doing as a stripper is paid labour, not a character defect, and that every moment in her life de ella is shaped by sexism, whether she is doing sex work or minimum-wage labor in retail.

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While this memoir provides a searing portrayal of the downsides of stripping, it is also informed by a clear-eyed understanding of what makes a choice to do sex work a desirable option for some. Brunet’s aim is not polemic, but while presenting the human faces and voices of sex workers so vividly, the author has created an important document that should inform public debates as over 150 human rights organizations across Canada are currently calling for the decriminalization of sex work.

“My story can’t stand in for anyone else’s experience or be generalized. It is so important to listen to sex workers as individuals and to uplift voices more marginalized than my own,” Brunet writes.

This important new book is dedicated “to every sex worker, in love and rage.”

Highly recommended.

Tom Sandborn lives and writes in Vancouver. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at

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