Overview of the book:
When I was twelve, shortly after my parents divorced, I discovered my father’s glossy porno magazines in our basement. I believed that naked women had the power to take my father away from me. I eventually became that which I thought my father loved—an adult entertainer. Years later, in face of the crisis of being a new mother while caring for my own mother, who was battling breast cancer, I strip down and cast off the inessentials of being. I revisit my topless past to discover and make sense of my relationship to my body and to challenge the meanings and definitions I created for myself. I strip down to what really matters—health, time, and family. Even still, my persistent desires, which feel necessary, but selfish: my beauty, my body, being the perfect mother—trigger an exploration of female identity and body image, and a reexamination of how my childhood of hiding away resulted in an adulthood of overexposure.
Stripping Down is a moving meditation on a woman’s life through her body, with the female body acting as the lens to the world. A conflicted modern woman is revealed, both victimized by the male gaze and succumbed to the oppressive culture in her anxious search for attention, her saddening competition for praise. I embark on a journey through grief to understand the connections between my body, my beauty, and my self. Urged forward by the reality of my mother’s terminal illness, I cling to every moment with her, but learn that to fully embrace my mother, I must first embrace myself.
My story does not connect in straight lines because my female life does not fit into a neat, clear-cut narrative form; it spins, rotates, and spirals in upon itself. Stripping Down reflects this cycling between reality and fantasy, motherhood and childhood, and sexuality and love. A spiral through time and memory is reflected in the structure of the story, and as I resettle in the present day, I cannot help but question the validity of my own life. I search for answers to what it means to be a woman, torn between an unrelenting urge for fame, adoration, and specialness with a looming feeling of unavoidable responsibility and seriousness.
The main sequence of Stripping Down, for all its back-and-forth movement, is forward in time, beginning in April 2005, as I deal with my mother’s breast cancer battle and care for my infant daughter. A drive to visit my mother in the hospital with my sleeping one-year-old daughter sets up the sense of constant movement as the exit signs flash past, reminding me of the strip clubs I danced in and the former self I’ve never come to terms with. I flashback between my sex-work tale, my childhood, and my life as a mother to examine how I came to sexuality, and what may have created an insatiable quest for beauty, attention, and love. The experience of returning to my mother along the same route that I used to drive away from her to strip compels me to search for who I was before and after my mother’s diagnoses and what it means to have a female body. I explore my transformation from child, to young woman, to stripper and nude model, to mother, as I grapple with why I do not love and accept my female body and self—when so many others have.
Stripping Down examines the female body’s idealized states: my childhood reflected in my infant daughter’s first year of life, and my persona as a stripper, to every woman’s possible future, the body’s uttermost ill-fated condition, terminal cancer. I explore how my impulse toward identity as an external image affects who I am, and how my entire life, spent fixated on my body image, must be reevaluated. My sense of power as a stripper is juxtaposed with the powerlessness of dealing with my mother, which impels me to understand my life differently and to recover what I have given away of myself. Feelings of longing for my mother fuel the search for who I was as I attempt to understand the meanings the world and I created. I’m giving birth to my self and rebirth to my stripper persona, Kyrea, by writing about her, bringing us fully into the world: who she wanted to be, who she was, who she is, who she wanted me to be, and who I am.
Stripping Down slowly reveals I’ve been punishing myself for my mother’s illness. I accept that my having been a stripper is not the cause of my mother’s breast cancer, and I begin to understand how my covering and shedding of who I was and am cannot keep me safe—and never did. My persona in the first-half of the memoir is detached emotionally as a way to handle my spiritual crisis, but there is a slow unfolding of emotional trusting, pulling the reader into my process of understanding and acceptance.
Stripping Down’s structure reflects the experience of grief, which is not linear, but disjointed. In the first section, I explore my relationship to my female body, specifically in how I became a stripper and nude model at 18. Searching for understanding, I explore who I was as a child, my relationship with my mother and father, their relationship, divorce and the discovery of my father’s porn trunk. Each chapter covers one month in the year prior to my mother’s death, April-August 2005, creating an ongoing sense of time marching slowly forward.
The second section covers the crisis of the month leading up to my mother’s death in April 2006. Time slows down and intensifies as my mother’s illness worsens. There is an opposite character arc for my daughter, Genny, who experiences many “firsts” in my mother’s last month. I sort through the chaos as I chronologically delve into the end of my stripping career and the parallel descent of who I became. I find solace in rediscovering and reinterpreting my past, facing the reality of my mother’s illness, and facing the reality of the younger me. I accept the choices I made in the past; I accept the self I was struggling to discover and create. With my mother’s death, I deal with my years-long preemptive mourning, embracing the fluid, cycling motion of the development of my female self and story.
I strip down the last layers and find myself naked for the first time.
Target Audience & Marketing
Stripping Down is a memoir for women that will help them to further value their own identities through my quest to understand what it is to have a female self. For women interested in developing their own life narratives, I explore how writing our lives and discovering our selves is all part of an ongoing process. I connect the dots between the bonds of body, beauty, and self with which all modern women struggle. Stripping Down recreates the experience of chaos and then shows the slow unfolding of order to share the truth with other women, so that they, too, may be able to look at their present and past selves for answers to questions of identity.
Female readers eager for vivid portraits of young women’s lives will embrace Stripping Down. My story illuminates the possibilities for positive change in women, no matter what their pasts hold. Readers will witness the consequences of actions and beliefs and how the past can be reframed and the future rewritten. This memoir deals with the intersection of many current issues: coming-of-age, strippers, new motherhood, breast cancer, and death and mourning; the book attracts in many markets: autobiography, cultural analysis, literary memoir, sex, psychological self-examination, and women’s studies. Interest in the adult entertainment business, feminism, and inspirational stories promises an audience for Stripping Down because of the unique combination of all these approaches, which presents tremendous mass-market potential.
Young women, from high school girls to women in their twenties, will relate to my relationship and body image struggles. They will find valuable lessons from my meditations on beauty, the female body, and the choices young women must make about how they are going to live in today’s demanding and conflicting culture. Statistically, young girls are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of nuclear war, cancer, or losing their parents, and 2 out of 5 would trade 3-5 years of life to achieve their weight goals. Stripping Down will show them the risks of trying to live a life to please others and the dangers of focusing on the fleeting rewards of thinness and beauty.
In the United States there are approximately 82.5 million mothers. These women will find an honest account of the first year of motherhood from a middle-class working perspective. Mothers dealing with the realities of work, caring for an ill or aging parent and a child, and holding together a marriage will find hope and solace as I struggle through the same issues.
Women who enjoy self-help and inspirational stories will profit from the self-help techniques I explore throughout my journey in Stripping Down. There is an abundance of readers wanting to change their own lives who will benefit from experiencing how I surmounted my past challenges. Stripping Down will be a wake-up call that they can come back from trauma in their lives. Yoga enthusiasts will discover the behind-the-scenes making of a yoga practitioner and teacher.
Feminists and scholars interested in the psychological and social forces at work in young women’s lives will find much within Stripping Down to enrich the current field of study. Also, writers and teachers of creative nonfiction will find a great deal to explore about the creative writing process as it unfolds in the narrative.
Women dealing with breast cancer, which is the most common cancer among American women, will find an illness narrative dealing with the effects of breast cancer on mothers and daughters. The chance for women of developing invasive breast cancer is about 1 in 8, and there are currently 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
The theme of my ongoing struggle with depression will ensure readers; women are twice as likely to experience depression than men. There are approximately 7 million women in the United States clinically depressed. Stripping Down will encourage them that they are not alone and that treatment is an ongoing and many-faceted journey.
About The Author & Promotion
I received my MFA in June 2007 in Memoir from Hunter College, CUNY, where I studied with Kathryn Harrison, Peter Carey, Nuala O’Faolin, Louise DeSalvo, Tom Sleigh and Eva Hoffman. I graduated as valedictorian in January 2002 with a BA majoring in the Thomas Hunter Honors Program and English. I worked with Anne Burt and Christina Baker Kline as a Hertog Fellow Spring 2006 on research for their Seal Press 2008 book About Face: Women Write About What They See When They Look in the Mirror in which 25 women examine their own faces and the stories they have to tell.
I was a Teaching Fellow Fall 2006 and Spring 2007. As a student, I was awarded first place for the Graduate Student Memoir Prize. Freelance writing includes Salon, Mamalode, Mom Babble, Say It With A Bang, She Knows, Role Reboot and The Huffington Post. I have taught Creative Writing, Composition, and Literature at Hunter College, CUNY, Housatonic Community College and University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, CT, and The College of New Rochelle, NY. I am currently an Academic Mentor for Berkeley College.
I am a nationally certified and registered Hatha yoga teacher through Integral Yoga Institute of New York City and the Yoga Alliance. I approach yoga practice as an opportunity to begin again, another chance to remember who I am, another possibility to find joy in being fully alive. My continuing studies explore the connections between yoga and creativity, using yoga as an entryway into creative expression.
My successful blog, StrippingDown.com, has had 100,000 visitors. I write about everything having to do with body image, self-acceptance, women's empowerment, celebrities, parenting and writing.
My experience as an actress, teacher, and entertainer have prepared me well to create and promote a lifestyle for women based on acceptance of our pasts and an embracing of who we are now, all discovered through writing and discovering our own ever-evolving stories and life processes.
I performed as an actress and model throughout the New York area in off-Broadway, regional and dinner theatre, along with print, video, and film work. I became an adult entertainer and nude model at eighteen, dancing in over fifteen clubs throughout my five-year career. My modeling work includes appearances in: French Photo, French Max, Bikini, Libido, Leg Tease, Leg Action, and Small Tops. A book devoted to photos of me, Big Town, Little Town: Nudes for the Urban Environment by Frank Wallis has spawned me many fans.
My husband, Nick Terzi, and I have three children. This opens up new motherhood experiences to explore in essays and articles for women’s magazines. I have written memoir pieces on the subject of stripping and body issues for Salon, Moxie, Cahoots, Conversely and NYC Voices.
Many chapters of Stripping Down will work well as stand-alone first-person essays for magazines such as Ms., Salon, and Parenting. I can also write new pieces for women’s magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Elle, The Oprah Magazine, and Self. Yoga and self-help magazines such as Yoga Journal and Women’s Health will be interested in pieces exploring how women can use techniques I learned and have taught along the way. The many yoga studios I have worked at will be great venues for workshops—as will my connections with the worldwide Integral Yoga Institute and my national recognition as an RYT. Writing magazines will benefit from articles based on memoir writing.
As part of my publicity campaign for Stripping Down, I had many TV and Radio Appearances and established myself as a Body Image and Stripper expert:
The Bill Cunningham Show Expert on I Have Sex for Money, Don't Get Mad at Me, Honey! – February 24, 2015
CBS New York News - Can Exposing Family Secrets Help The Healing Process?
The Today Show, August 2012, for a Mommy Makeover (http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/29054…2#48725272).
Anderson, May 2012, discussing whether porn stars can be good moms (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NDs878oMdc&feature=youtu.be ).
The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann, September 2012, Should Strip Tease be Considered Art & be Tax Free? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIwrOoaoHG0
Huffington Post Live and AOL, September 2012, on Sexual Contracts (http://www.aol.com/video/community-…e_facebook)
NBC CT News, April 2012, Interview on Stripping Down (http://youtu.be/8J4lvO_Qt9g),
CT Style on ABC CT News, May 2012, Author Interview (http://youtu.be/EvQVmpAbuM8.
Radio appearances include: Raven in the Morning, WCCC 106.9 FM, The Rock; The All Out Show with Rude Jude & Lord Sear; Broadminded Show; Moore in the Morning News Talk 1010; State of the Arts, WPKN-FM, 89.5; The Mary Jones Show, The Talk of Connecticut, WDRC; Mancow Experience.