Rent Girl
A graphic and uncompromising autobiographical bender, the story of Tea's years as a prostitute, with provocative illustrations by Laurenn McCubbin.

Rent Girl Details

TitleRent Girl
Author
FormatPaperback
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseAug 1st, 2004
PublisherLast Gasp
ISBN0867196203
ISBN-139780867196207
Number of pages239 pages
Rating
GenreSequential Art, Graphic Novels, Glbt, Queer, Autobiography, Memoir, Comics, Nonfiction, Sexuality, Sex Work

Rent Girl Review

  • Antoinette
    December 21, 2007
    Terrible, terrible, terrible. Why did it happen? What makes it possible? This book has no point, it barely tells a story, and it is ridiculously aloof. Like talking to a coked up drag queen, smearing mascara all over your sensible sweater and gushing out their life story, morbidly fascinating, but you just want it to be over. Michelle Tea once again succeeds in convincing the world that yes, she is a vulnerable lesbian badass. And yes, there are people around her that do drugs and don't give a s Terrible, terrible, terrible. Why did it happen? What makes it possible? This book has no point, it barely tells a story, and it is ridiculously aloof. Like talking to a coked up drag queen, smearing mascara all over your sensible sweater and gushing out their life story, morbidly fascinating, but you just want it to be over. Michelle Tea once again succeeds in convincing the world that yes, she is a vulnerable lesbian badass. And yes, there are people around her that do drugs and don't give a shit about anyone. Blah blah blah. I am so fucking sick of being a part of a group of people that constantly reinforce the stereotypes that plague their group. I hate the casual tone of this book. Like a scared little girl that wants to tell you that she is scared about confused, but instead says "Yeah, I had sex the other night. I didn't even come." Quit being casual, quit being self-involved, write something that has a purpose. So transparent. Not an enjoyable read. Grow up. Grow grow grow grow grow up. This book made me feel strange about the world. So full of pretend glamour, so lacking in the honesty it is praised for being full of. It is a lie, like most art, but this lie does not tell the truth. Terrible read.
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  • Marissa
    March 22, 2012
    Rent Girl is an absorbing, but extremely depressing read made all the more depressing by its weird hipster cool tone. It strikes me as a modern version of Women by Charles Bukwoski, but this time written by a drug using hip young lesbian prostitute instead of an aging, alcoholic rock star poet. They are depressing books in very similar ways, because they center on a person who is clearly incredibly intelligent and talented who you get to watch kind of destroy themselves through sex and substance Rent Girl is an absorbing, but extremely depressing read made all the more depressing by its weird hipster cool tone. It strikes me as a modern version of Women by Charles Bukwoski, but this time written by a drug using hip young lesbian prostitute instead of an aging, alcoholic rock star poet. They are depressing books in very similar ways, because they center on a person who is clearly incredibly intelligent and talented who you get to watch kind of destroy themselves through sex and substance use. Both Tea and Bukwoski lack the ambition, education, or money that would give them a chance for anything better and both books have a similar sense of tragedy underscoring their partying and irreverence. They are tell-alls that never really tell you the whole truth about who these people are or why they're doing what they're doing. I think Rent Girl was supposed to end on a triumphant note, but in reality it just made me feel deflated and worn out and irritated that this is one more books cool kids will think is cool, without really getting how awful they actually are.
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  • Jazz
    August 31, 2007
    "...people like to say things like 'all work is prostitution'. Most work is exploitation, but most work is not prostitution. Prostitution is prostitution, a very specific sort of exploitation... And while I am doing literal corrections to flippant turns of phrase, the earth doesn't get raped. It gets mined and poisoned and blown up and depleted, it gets ruined, but it doesn't get raped."This book is so powerful I couldn't help but cry and laugh out loud.Raunchy and bold. Michelle Tea shows the l "...people like to say things like 'all work is prostitution'. Most work is exploitation, but most work is not prostitution. Prostitution is prostitution, a very specific sort of exploitation... And while I am doing literal corrections to flippant turns of phrase, the earth doesn't get raped. It gets mined and poisoned and blown up and depleted, it gets ruined, but it doesn't get raped."This book is so powerful I couldn't help but cry and laugh out loud.Raunchy and bold. Michelle Tea shows the life of a hooker from every angle, what a compelling book. The art is just detached from real life to not scare you away but close enough to be simply elegant.
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  • Catherine Caldwell-Harris
    March 21, 2014
    If you've ever wondered what it is like to be a prostitute, this book offers a lot of insight. One among many searing moments is when Michelle and her co-worker are lost en route to a client's house. They stop for directions. She muses about how it feels when you walk into a 7-11 and the clerk looks at you as if you're a hooker .. and you are. Another one: Michelle gets increasingly more tattoos as she goes thru her 20s. At one point, she gets some down her arms to her hands, feeling satisfied b If you've ever wondered what it is like to be a prostitute, this book offers a lot of insight. One among many searing moments is when Michelle and her co-worker are lost en route to a client's house. They stop for directions. She muses about how it feels when you walk into a 7-11 and the clerk looks at you as if you're a hooker .. and you are. Another one: Michelle gets increasingly more tattoos as she goes thru her 20s. At one point, she gets some down her arms to her hands, feeling satisfied because, "I won't be able to hook with these" This is because brothel owners prefer prostitutes with fewer tattoos. Psychologists would say she is making a decision in the present to curtail or restrict future action (like flushing your cocaine down the toilet). Except there will always be an outcall service that will hire a young woman, even with tattoos. Other reviewers have said the main audience for this book are horny teenage boys. Some have wondered why Michelle keeps going back to prostitution, and say the book raises this question but doesn't answer it. In fact, Michelle does addresses this question and indeed this question is the point of the book, not to offer titillation about lesbian hookers. This may be more apparent if you've read Tea's other books about growing up working class. Hooking is basically better than the drudgery of working class jobs, where you often do miserable work that is mind-numbing and requires obedience and deference while paying poverty wages. Hooking is soul crushing but at least you don't have to do it 12 hours a day in order to earn enough to live. Rent Girl is profound for illuminating the troublesome situation of work in America. What should we do about the fact that there isn't meaningful work for everyone. Can we change this? What we need is to rethink work. Star Trek, Next Generation, anyone? But if you don't have to work in order to get money, who would work? Psychology research and common sense say that people would still work. Think how many people volunteer. But people would demand meaningful work, and society would need to rise to the challenge of providing it. If you favor the idea of working *for* money, rather than working to make a contribution to society and feel socially involved, consider whose interests are served by the work-for-money approach to arranging our social lives. And here is what my preschooler thought about Rent Girl: Our video camera opens with a rather ordinary tirade by one 4 year old boy, and then turns the corner to find twin brother Elias absorbed in Michelle Tea's novel Rent Girl. Every time I pick up Rent Girl I find it hard to put down without reading a section. I wonder what this little boy made of it? He came up with his own title, as he explains dramatically: "The ... Red.... Girl!" http://youtu.be/wTsk3kzu444
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  • Aneesa
    October 31, 2011
    I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. A lot of people have a lot of opinions about Michelle Tea and my opinion is that I like her writing (in this book). I like how she rarely uses contractions. I like the way the dialogue interacts with the narrative. I like her theories and considerations and anger. I like the nonchalant way she introduces the occult and other alternative life choices. I also like the illustrations, although they don't do the same thing illustrations do in comic boo I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. A lot of people have a lot of opinions about Michelle Tea and my opinion is that I like her writing (in this book). I like how she rarely uses contractions. I like the way the dialogue interacts with the narrative. I like her theories and considerations and anger. I like the nonchalant way she introduces the occult and other alternative life choices. I also like the illustrations, although they don't do the same thing illustrations do in comic books, and it's pretty batty how they conflict with the text. I do not like it that this book was not copyedited even though Michelle Tea does not know the difference between "then" and "than" (hint: the word "than" never appears in this book).
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  • Tania
    April 2, 2008
    reading "rent girl" right on the heels of "the passionate mistakes..." may have contributed to the super-saturated feeling of grittiness i had when i finished this book. while i remain a huge fan of tea's work, i found the graphic novel format a failure. it's a strange hybrid of drawings and dense tiny type-set text that does neither justice. individual pages are lovely, but as a linear narrative, it falls short. maybe i'm just tired of the wobbly line drawings of sexy girls that seem to be crop reading "rent girl" right on the heels of "the passionate mistakes..." may have contributed to the super-saturated feeling of grittiness i had when i finished this book. while i remain a huge fan of tea's work, i found the graphic novel format a failure. it's a strange hybrid of drawings and dense tiny type-set text that does neither justice. individual pages are lovely, but as a linear narrative, it falls short. maybe i'm just tired of the wobbly line drawings of sexy girls that seem to be cropping up all over the place lately.
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  • Emer Martin
    May 18, 2014
    I interviewed Michelle in SF one Summer. I absolutely loved this book. It is funny and insightful and surprising. The darkness is real but the spirit of the character so strong I was carried aloft. Here is the interview http://writerscentre.ie/blog/blog/aut... Rent Girl is an illustrated memoir of Michelle’s days when her girlfriend announced that she was a hooker and, Michelle, who was one broke baby dyke followed her into the world of paid sex. Frankly, I’ve never understood people’s shock at I interviewed Michelle in SF one Summer. I absolutely loved this book. It is funny and insightful and surprising. The darkness is real but the spirit of the character so strong I was carried aloft. Here is the interview http://writerscentre.ie/blog/blog/aut... Rent Girl is an illustrated memoir of Michelle’s days when her girlfriend announced that she was a hooker and, Michelle, who was one broke baby dyke followed her into the world of paid sex. Frankly, I’ve never understood people’s shock at prostitution, in a way we all pay for sex one way or another. There’s no such thing as free love, especially here, 40 odd years after THE Summer of Love turned into a bad acid trip.Rent girl is a wise and funny book, a very graphic novel. There is a part where the narrator surmises that it is much less effort to be a hooker than to be a stripper. Strippers, she claims, have to give so much of themselves in the performance. Hookers can lie back and let their minds wander. That’s an insider perspective, something I would have never guessed. And I love learning new things that surprise me.
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  • David Schaafsma
    October 2, 2014
    Tea's story of her cool, hipster, lesbian life and the central part of the story is that as a young lesbian, she and a group of friends worked for years as "escort girls" (i.e., prostitutes). The story is sort of distant, and not all that insightful, really, but it still is interesting and well told, and the illustrations, mostly black, white, red and pink, quite spare and stylized, are pretty gorgeous and help capture a life and time. It's not a great work of art, maybe, but I actually liked it Tea's story of her cool, hipster, lesbian life and the central part of the story is that as a young lesbian, she and a group of friends worked for years as "escort girls" (i.e., prostitutes). The story is sort of distant, and not all that insightful, really, but it still is interesting and well told, and the illustrations, mostly black, white, red and pink, quite spare and stylized, are pretty gorgeous and help capture a life and time. It's not a great work of art, maybe, but I actually liked it quite a bit, so there. Kinda reminds me of the slacker/punk girls gone wild of Ulli Lust's The Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, maybe sort of naive younger women who seem to sort of drift into something they may later regret, dangerous situations. Kind of like watching a train wreck, in a way, as it is unfolding. But that's interesting, right? I stop for stuff like that. The difference for Tea vs Lust is that she never seems to think it was a bad idea, it was just something she disc for money, whatever… though Lust really came to regret it later… saw she had dodged a bullet...
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  • Dawn
    November 29, 2007
    This book is awesome! I enjoyed every minute of it. The writing and illustrations are great! Alas, it would be five stars were it not the most poorly copy-edited book I'VE EVER READ. I'm sure it's not the author's fault, but next book y'all should totally have someone correct the typos. Aside from that technical issue, thanks for giving me a "good read"! (Ha, was that cheesy to say or what?)
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  • I. Merey
    April 7, 2015
    I had some trepidations about this book, b/c a lot of my annoyance with Valencia was with its aloofish hipster tone romanticizing drugs and easy bad sex---the only time I got caught on that tone in 'Rent Girl' was about 3/4 ways through, when the author takes some time off from tales of sex work to focus on her short and not-so-successful dint with drug pushing.Other than this slight detour, the rest was so honest and relatable to me.I could hear Tea's voice walking the line between the two narr I had some trepidations about this book, b/c a lot of my annoyance with Valencia was with its aloofish hipster tone romanticizing drugs and easy bad sex---the only time I got caught on that tone in 'Rent Girl' was about 3/4 ways through, when the author takes some time off from tales of sex work to focus on her short and not-so-successful dint with drug pushing.Other than this slight detour, the rest was so honest and relatable to me.I could hear Tea's voice walking the line between the two narratives most often heard:-Sex work is degrading horrible work I have been forced into.-I love to do sex work and it is so empowering. Tea is neither forced, nor empowered: the job flexibility is good, the money is good; the johns are 'gross or not gross'. She gets the 'sex' out of 'sex work' so that it remains only 'work', though it may be a while before it will be work like any other job. As Tea aptly points out: Many jobs are compared to prostitution and all jobs are exploitative, but only prostitution is prostitution. And the reasons a sex worker may find themselves wanting to get out might not be what people automatically expect:'I forgot to tell her about how it makes you mean; makes you vengeful; how it turns you into a greedy monster because no matter how much money they are giving you it is never enough, and you start to want their blood, their homes, their self-esteem lying wet in the wastebasket like a shucked condom.'The illustrations were spot on, unique and loose and perfectly colored---only black, gray, white and red. Lots of pretty girls and lots of unremarkable men who looked like only slightly altered, creepy reincarnations of each other...
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  • Liz
    August 16, 2014
    I probably would have rated this book higher if the book was actually a graphic novel: it is really more of an illustrated novel, and I thought that the text layout was slapdash. The pages weren't really designed with much thought. Sometimes the blocks of text were so wide that I had to hold a piece of paper under each line I was reading, or else I'd get lost. Sometimes the text ran into the illustration in a really distracting way. And the illustrations sometimes betrayed details of characters I probably would have rated this book higher if the book was actually a graphic novel: it is really more of an illustrated novel, and I thought that the text layout was slapdash. The pages weren't really designed with much thought. Sometimes the blocks of text were so wide that I had to hold a piece of paper under each line I was reading, or else I'd get lost. Sometimes the text ran into the illustration in a really distracting way. And the illustrations sometimes betrayed details of characters given in the text, for example a character would be said to be wearing a polo shirt, and the drawing of them is in a long-sleeved dress shirt. Details like that matter! And, as some folks have mentioned, yeah, there are a helluva lot of typos in this one. I guess if I had found the story more engaging, those things wouldn't have been so obvious to me, but there are few times when I can really spot the things wrong with a books layout, and pinpoint how they greatly diminish the enjoyability.
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  • Kirsten
    February 29, 2008
    Michelle Tea's trademark combination of wit and pathos is used to good effect in this memoir of her days as an escort. Laurenn McCubbin's arty but realistic illustrations complement the text perfectly, but do make it something you might not want to read on the bus. I noticed that Tea's tendency toward break-neck run-on sentences is much more restrained in this book, and that works well; the impression is that of a more disciplined writer than the one who penned The Passionate Mistakes and Intric Michelle Tea's trademark combination of wit and pathos is used to good effect in this memoir of her days as an escort. Laurenn McCubbin's arty but realistic illustrations complement the text perfectly, but do make it something you might not want to read on the bus. I noticed that Tea's tendency toward break-neck run-on sentences is much more restrained in this book, and that works well; the impression is that of a more disciplined writer than the one who penned The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl In America.
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  • Teree
    February 25, 2008
    Here I am reading it, almost finished. One thing I have to say, that I haven't seen anyone else say, is the editing is awful. There are scads of mistakes. Typos galore!I also wonder why these modern, young lesbian hookers have never shaved their bushes.I love the artwork! I am a fan of this book, yet I think hookers are terribly intriguing and sad.Read "Rose Of No Man's Land," by Michelle Tea. That was wonderful.
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  • Meghan
    October 18, 2012
    I started editing it in my head - in my dream version of this book, instead of being a mix of text and one portrait on each page, it's a traditional panel-format graphic novel. This would force the author to tighten up the storyline and maybe take out a big chunk of the middle. The most interesting parts were the beginning, when she starts working as an escort, and near the end, when she and her girlfriend start trying to sell cocaine and briefly go back into the escort business together.
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  • Heather
    March 15, 2012
    This book is DESPERATELY in need of a copy editor. I wouldn't give it more than 2 stars under any circumstances, but the multitude of typos were just so irritating. It claims to be a graphic novel, but it's more illustrated than graphic. The images augment the text, but don't tell the story. As for the actual story, it was ok. Kind of blah.
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  • Sarah
    July 2, 2010
    I really liked this--loved the art, the story was compelling. The only thing that keeps me from giving this 5 stars is the large amount of typos--unfortunately they were distracting. I really wanted to start marking them but this is a library book and I'm not that big of a jerk.
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  • Raina
    March 15, 2012
    Totally mezmerizing. The illustrations are really really gorgeous. Fascinating story.Very not a kids book.
  • Ben Bush
    October 31, 2011
    I read this lying in bed as a weird kind of therapy after the one time I got fired. It was the one relaxation I allowed myself before job hunting.
  • Frank Terry
    February 10, 2017
    Wow. This book is fucking incredible and a fucking masterpiece.
  • Liralen
    June 19, 2011
    Up until about halfway through this book, I thought it was fantastic. It's on point, it's funny, and the red-black-white illustrations really make the book.To an extent, the book remains its funny and on-point self (the illustrations, certainly, are still terrific), but by the time I reached the end I had soured on the narrator. Maybe it was the switch to a focus on drugs (doing them, dealing them), which I didn't expect -- but I think that more than that it was the lack of depth.I wasn't sure a Up until about halfway through this book, I thought it was fantastic. It's on point, it's funny, and the red-black-white illustrations really make the book.To an extent, the book remains its funny and on-point self (the illustrations, certainly, are still terrific), but by the time I reached the end I had soured on the narrator. Maybe it was the switch to a focus on drugs (doing them, dealing them), which I didn't expect -- but I think that more than that it was the lack of depth.I wasn't sure at first what I didn't care for in the second half. I went away for a few days and had to leave the book at home; would I have liked the second half as much as the first if I'd read it all in one go? Or would I still be disenchanted? But then it clicked. The illustrations -- I know; I said this already (and will say it again) -- really make the book. The writing's pretty interesting, sort of stream-of-consciousness mini-essays that connect but most of which could be read independently of one another. But it's pretty...one-sided.In the first half of the book, the writing has a point to make. The narrator isn't always sympathetic, but it was definitely interesting to get her perspective (even if it was pretty limited) on the sex trade. Do I wonder whether Steph was really as toxic as she suggests? Yes. Do I wish she'd commented on things like legalisation of prostitution? Yes. That said, it was funny and often biting.The second half more or less loses the plot, though. The focus switches from prostitution to drugs -- but I don't think there really was a perspective here, or a point, except that making money by selling drugs to "friends" was harder than they'd thought and she didn't like working. It wasn't particularly interesting to me (this was also the point at which I started getting irritated by the typos), and although I did appreciate the artwork, it shouldn't be doing so much of the heavy lifting.I'm glad I read this, though, especially coming so close on the heels of Paying for It. I just found the first half more compelling than the second half.
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  • Erin
    August 14, 2012
    never have i read a book with more typos than rent girl. under normal circumstances, i think this would drive me crazy, probably even make me not be able to read the book. but this is michelle tea we're talking about here, and despite the typos, i couldn't put the book down. in fact, i'm kind of excited about re-reading the book so i can make all the corrections. pro-ject!i think if it was easier to get my hands on her books, i would have read all of them by now. our library only owns one of the never have i read a book with more typos than rent girl. under normal circumstances, i think this would drive me crazy, probably even make me not be able to read the book. but this is michelle tea we're talking about here, and despite the typos, i couldn't put the book down. in fact, i'm kind of excited about re-reading the book so i can make all the corrections. pro-ject!i think if it was easier to get my hands on her books, i would have read all of them by now. our library only owns one of them, and of the three i've read, this was my least favorite. what i enjoyed most about rose of no man's land was the last 50 or so pages during which the narrator is high on something- amphetamines i think. so imagine my elation at finding out her autobiographical stuff is composed entirely of episodes like that. i don't know what it is about michelle tea's world and her writing that makes me just get lost in it. okay, i do know sort of. hello, i'm living vicariously through her. not that i would have wanted to have all the experiences she's had- and she certainly doesn't glamourize it in any way- but she's one of those people i look at as just totally sucking everything she can out of life. she's been around the block, yo. her living situation is never stable, her apartment is dirty, the places she hangs out are sketchy, her friends are mostly druggies and prostitutes, and of course everything is peppered with all the lesbian drama you could want-- to read about, that is.her books are like candy. seriously thinking about it right now i am imagining putting it in my mouth and chewing. it's like how i feel about my nephew or my girlfriend when they're so cute i can't stand it and just looking at them isn't enough- i want to eat them. michelle tea rambles to her readers like they're her friends or her journal or something. the way she describes things is so very real and vivid sometimes. and then every so often there's something i want to underline, something that is said so perfectly, that i want to remember it and use it later. i sometimes think/hope that my own journal writing contains some of this. i'm sure it contains plenty of typos, too.
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  • Lisa M.
    March 6, 2012
    I have read many books by artists from San Francisco/Oakland. (I think it’s the perfect literary community.) So, I had heard Michelle’s name frequently. I read a section of the book (without the illustrations) in “Sex & Single Girls.” I was really disappointed. The writing quality wasn’t bad— but when it comes to a memoir, it’s truly the author and their life that matters the most. When I read this section I found her to be really obnoxious and vowed I would never read this book— or any of I have read many books by artists from San Francisco/Oakland. (I think it’s the perfect literary community.) So, I had heard Michelle’s name frequently. I read a section of the book (without the illustrations) in “Sex & Single Girls.” I was really disappointed. The writing quality wasn’t bad— but when it comes to a memoir, it’s truly the author and their life that matters the most. When I read this section I found her to be really obnoxious and vowed I would never read this book— or any of her other work. Well, Valentine’s Day came and I decided to buy myself a gift too. I had been eyeing this in the Yale bookstore for a long time, and finally bought it. I am really happy I read and own this book. The prose is very well written. The illustrations are simple and beautiful— especially the coloring. I really liked the way this was structured; it felt very natural. Michelle tells us a little about her childhood and why she may have turned to prostitution, but she does not become analytical. Instead Tea’s descent into prostitution seemed relatively simple and that was one of the major reasons I enjoyed this book. She did not give heavy reasons why she became a prostitute, and although she seemed to express regret at times, it was not overly done. I really came to like Michelle and would have loved to be her friend! The only thing that I would complain about was the pacing. The first section of the book focused on the prostitution and moved a little too quickly through the drug/Elenore phase. I really found that connection endearing, I fell into the “Pluto” obsession of it, and hoped for it! But over all this was very well balanced, honest, and good.
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  • Peacegal
    April 6, 2012
    Rent Girl is sort of a lazy graphic novel. It's not presented in traditional comics format, but rather in text-dense pages with large illustrations on each page. It may have worked better as a traditional comic, who knows, or maybe its flaws are just endemic to the story. (LOTS of typos--a pet peeve of mine.) The aspect of Rent Girl I found most annoying by far is the main character is a negative vegan stereotype. She is sickly-skinny, unhealthy, and hypocritical. Every few pages, we are reminde Rent Girl is sort of a lazy graphic novel. It's not presented in traditional comics format, but rather in text-dense pages with large illustrations on each page. It may have worked better as a traditional comic, who knows, or maybe its flaws are just endemic to the story. (LOTS of typos--a pet peeve of mine.) The aspect of Rent Girl I found most annoying by far is the main character is a negative vegan stereotype. She is sickly-skinny, unhealthy, and hypocritical. Every few pages, we are reminded once again the fact that the young woman is a vegan, and how unhealthy or hungry or underdeveloped or whatever she is as a result. It's almost as if the author had a personal vendetta, and it bugged the hell out of me. (I know far more plump vegans than bony ones.) Early on, we read of the main character's veganism as a result of her compassion for animals, whether calves crated for veal or chickens having their beaks seared off. Yet a few pages later, she's "obsessed" with buying taxidermy, animals killed for various chintzy souvenirs. She worries about a bit of butter in corn at one point, but--whoops--here she is eating seafood and chicken. Le sigh.Rent Girl is more disturbing than sexy, which I am sure was the author's intent. Watch out for the delousing scene--you'll be squirming in disgust and sympathetic pain. The story doesn't pick up until the two girls become small-time drug dealers...then it starts to find its voice, becoming a much more interesting read. However, this section comes too late in the story to add much to the pace of the earlier pages.
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  • Liza
    June 23, 2011
    Maybe this is silly, but I used this book as my bedtime reading. Each page is like a little mini-memoir, a distinct little personal essay paired with a graphic image. The illustrations are simplistic or simplified; they depict the idea of the page-long "essay" in a seriously essentialized, boiled-down way. I really liked this book. It reminds me of other great memoir, personal essay collections like those by David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, and Laurie Notaro. I really enjoy the self-deprecatin Maybe this is silly, but I used this book as my bedtime reading. Each page is like a little mini-memoir, a distinct little personal essay paired with a graphic image. The illustrations are simplistic or simplified; they depict the idea of the page-long "essay" in a seriously essentialized, boiled-down way. I really liked this book. It reminds me of other great memoir, personal essay collections like those by David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, and Laurie Notaro. I really enjoy the self-deprecating humor and the in-your-face honesty. As some other reviewers have commented, the illustrations are pretty hit-or-miss. Some of them I found really beautiful or repulsive or intriguing, but others just felt a bit like filler. I've concluded that this graphic collection of loosely interconnected personal reflections was both a creative experiment between Michelle Tea (author) and Laurenn McCubbin (illustrator) AND a creative effort to flesh out or bulk up Tea's discrete page-long personal essays. On their own these mini-memoirs may not seem like much, but tie them in with graphic illustrations and publish them in a nice large, square format, and suddenly you have an intriguing coffee table book. However, this does not make a graphic novel in the traditional sense; there is a cohesive idea that holds these reflections together, but there is no singular plot or storyline that moves the action forward. This book is more a thematic collection of discrete reflections, than a linear, chronological autobiographical story. All this said, I found it very interesting and engaging, and as always, I love Michelle Tea's satirical humor and self-deprecation.
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  • Travissimo
    March 11, 2013
    I'm not sure if I was prepared for this book. I thought the almost graphic novel element would be an interesting introduction to understanding the world of escorts, but this book has just as much about feminism and lesbians than it does prostitution. I read it on a general recommendation, and it seems to have good reviews, but it doesn't go through for me.I do have to say that I seem to run into the same perspective on prostitution that I did when I had two friends that started it. It has someth I'm not sure if I was prepared for this book. I thought the almost graphic novel element would be an interesting introduction to understanding the world of escorts, but this book has just as much about feminism and lesbians than it does prostitution. I read it on a general recommendation, and it seems to have good reviews, but it doesn't go through for me.I do have to say that I seem to run into the same perspective on prostitution that I did when I had two friends that started it. It has something to do with finding out just how perverse and twisted johns are through first hand experience..Is that something I'm supposed to take away from this? Michelle didn't seem "broke" in my opinion. When my friends began working as prostitutes they didn't want to get jobs, so they started an incredibly risky "journey" into the world of prostitution. Actually, they didn't even need the money. My friends came from very affluent families, but they couldn't ask their parents for money for the things they wanted to buy. I don't know, maybe I'm still stuck on those friends I had, and their incredible laziness, but the moment I sensed Michelle's experiences were based on apathy, or curiosity, it just turned me off. For example, she had second thoughts about what she was doing only after she got crabs? Really?? Is that how the story went? Label me a typical uninformed joe, but I don't get it. I studied anthropology, but not psychology I guess.Jesus this review was hard.
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  • Ming
    September 10, 2007
    I have been in love with Michelle Tea's voice since hearing her at a writing workshop at the Michigan Womyn's Festival in 2001. Her speedy truth-telling maintains a breathless honesty that glitters. Most of her books focus on her burgeoning sexuality and coming of age and this tome was no different. Her tenure on hope amid a bleak landscape of the darker underbelly of humanity is a talent few writers and in fact few people posess. The description of her life as an escort and so-called "baby dyke I have been in love with Michelle Tea's voice since hearing her at a writing workshop at the Michigan Womyn's Festival in 2001. Her speedy truth-telling maintains a breathless honesty that glitters. Most of her books focus on her burgeoning sexuality and coming of age and this tome was no different. Her tenure on hope amid a bleak landscape of the darker underbelly of humanity is a talent few writers and in fact few people posess. The description of her life as an escort and so-called "baby dyke" gives you a sense of hopelessness and a deadening of your humanity just from hearing about her commodification, and yet all the while she maintains a sense of excitement about just being alive. I quite enjoyed the artwork which is gritty and realistic without being pornographic.I did have a few reservations:1)Grammatical and spelling errors abound, ack!1)The artwork and do not always match up, the minor inconsistancies were a little annoying and kept the text from feeling unified at some places.2)The ending, though its tone was consistent, felt forced.3)I am ready to hear something new from Michelle Tea. As much as she had some interesting younger years, I have heard the same story in different incarnations several times and am ready for her to test the boundaries of what she knows.
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  • Dani Peloquin
    April 7, 2012
    I enjoyed the writing a great deal and was impressed that the "graphic" aspects of the novel did not override the plot and characters in the actual story. However, I was disappointed in the story as a whole. I found Tea's work as a sex worker extremely interesting, but as a narrator I found her to be whiny and often annoying. Though she courageously displayed her weaknesses as well as her strengths, I still could not help but want more from the characters whether it was development, background i I enjoyed the writing a great deal and was impressed that the "graphic" aspects of the novel did not override the plot and characters in the actual story. However, I was disappointed in the story as a whole. I found Tea's work as a sex worker extremely interesting, but as a narrator I found her to be whiny and often annoying. Though she courageously displayed her weaknesses as well as her strengths, I still could not help but want more from the characters whether it was development, background information, or some resolution. Being that it is a memoir, everything can't always be pleasantly resolved. However, every character eventually disappear without any acknowledgment that they had previously existed.The story begins with great strength and interest as Tea describes her life as a lesbian sex worker in Boston. As her travels bring her to Provincetown and Tucson, the reader can feel that Tea is running out of steam (and so is her story). Her girlfriend, for the majority of the piece, is a self-centered and one-dimensional woman who introduces Tea to the world of prostitution. Along the way, the two meet up and live with various other sex workers and drug addicts. While the ride is rocky and the writing is smooth, the characters are emotionally limited and appear as caricatures.www.iamliteraryaddicted.blogspot.com
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  • Liza
    August 12, 2013
    I feel really sad because this was the last of Michelle Tea's memoirs I could read for the first time. I've read all of them this year and it's felt like a very significant thing. Of course there are several parts of Michelle's life that I can't relate to but there's still a lot that I do, and when I'm reading her stuff I often feel a sense of almost-calm that would be calm if the things I felt we shared were calmer things. I guess I'll read her fiction and poetry now and I expect it'll be aweso I feel really sad because this was the last of Michelle Tea's memoirs I could read for the first time. I've read all of them this year and it's felt like a very significant thing. Of course there are several parts of Michelle's life that I can't relate to but there's still a lot that I do, and when I'm reading her stuff I often feel a sense of almost-calm that would be calm if the things I felt we shared were calmer things. I guess I'll read her fiction and poetry now and I expect it'll be awesome too but I'll miss reading her accounts of her life. I periodically read Getting Pregnant With Michelle Tea to get some more of her life accounts but I can only ever read so much at a time because I don't really get wanting to have children. Like, that's something she really wants to do and I respect that but after a few instalments I feel too much disconnect to continue. I'd rather have it there to read than not, tho.Re: the actual book, I was glad to see it wasn't a comic but was actually an illustrated version of the way Michelle normally writes. The illustrations were really awesome! I didn't connect with it the same as I have done her previous stuff but it was still very much worth reading, I really appreciate her sharing her experiences.
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  • Mike
    February 1, 2014
    This was... intense. [I basically read it in one sitting, so some of that is on me.] That's really my immediate reaction: I feel like I need to catch my breath. But beyond that...One of the more immediately striking things about Rent Girl is its normalizing of prostitution. It's not that Tea doesn't muse on the meanings and implications of sex work, both in a general sense and particularly as to her characters' involvement in it -- she absolutely does -- but she does it in the same way another a This was... intense. [I basically read it in one sitting, so some of that is on me.] That's really my immediate reaction: I feel like I need to catch my breath. But beyond that...One of the more immediately striking things about Rent Girl is its normalizing of prostitution. It's not that Tea doesn't muse on the meanings and implications of sex work, both in a general sense and particularly as to her characters' involvement in it -- she absolutely does -- but she does it in the same way another author would muse on the work of writing, or the import business, or plumbing. Laurenn McCubbin's illustrations are critical to the success of Rent Girl. They both match and enhance Tea's text, which is descriptive but sometimes sparse to the point of vagueness; McCubbin takes the scene and fleshes it out, but the limited color palette -- reds and pinks, grays and blacks -- also matches the fleeting, sometimes fragmentary text. The back and forth is quite effective, and (for me at least) made the narrative more immersive than either a straight prose text or a more traditional graphic novel. (On that note: can we get some well-executed illustrated adult lit?!)
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  • Brian
    June 10, 2013
    I find the underlying viewpoint and suppositions of this book bleak and ultimately sad. That may be a decent descriptor for the general human condition, but there's a problem when a narrator has broad damage-related suppositions about the male gender and then commodifies her sexual engagement with men only to find her suppositions confirmed. I know of one current Berkeley-based "fat pride" writer and quasi-activist (who I won't name: initials V.T.) whose issues are obvious, but who makes money o I find the underlying viewpoint and suppositions of this book bleak and ultimately sad. That may be a decent descriptor for the general human condition, but there's a problem when a narrator has broad damage-related suppositions about the male gender and then commodifies her sexual engagement with men only to find her suppositions confirmed. I know of one current Berkeley-based "fat pride" writer and quasi-activist (who I won't name: initials V.T.) whose issues are obvious, but who makes money on the side charging her "pay pigs" -- mostly male phone sex customers who want to be verbally abused or dominated -- while she, through these interactions affirms her own negative views of men. It's not too unlike my ludicrously conservative former uncle-in-law, a judge in Florida, who's got a supremely warped and self-reinforcing image of groups of people based on who gets shuttled through his courtroom.Sad. Good writing in parts, and the illustration is also sometimes excellent, but it's ultimately a reactionary bit of b-grade exploration of a subject that seems daring but which is ultimately just Capitalism 101 and the wage slaves who can't see the forest for the trees.
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