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Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America


Lily Burana had given up on stripping years before she accepted a marriage proposal-but decided to strip her way from Florida to Alaska before settling down. Lily, now a successful journalist, looks back at stripping with a writer's perspective. Her humorous yet hard-edged memoir deftly describes funky clubs and offbeat characters, the exhilaration that overtakes a dancer on stage-and the darker realities that assail her heart when she's out of the spotlight. Strip City is both a hugely entertaining insider's ...
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Lily Burana had given up on stripping years before she accepted a marriage proposal-but decided to strip her way from Florida to Alaska before settling down. Lily, now a successful journalist, looks back at stripping with a writer's perspective. Her humorous yet hard-edged memoir deftly describes funky clubs and offbeat characters, the exhilaration that overtakes a dancer on stage-and the darker realities that assail her heart when she's out of the spotlight. Strip City is both a hugely entertaining insider's account of a hidden world and a moving voyage of self-discovery. Lily Burana has written for The New York Times Book Review, GQ, New York magazine, The Village Voice, Spin, and Salon. She lives in New York State. This is her rst book.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
There's no business like the sex business -- or is there? In this poignant, bittersweet, sometimes funny account of a stripper's odyssey, the reader is allowed many roles. We start innocently enough: reading a journal about finding oneself -- a journey across America to recapture and understand a young woman's history as she prepares for a new life.

Along the way, we are alternately voyeurs and witnesses, learning the details and daily grinds of a worker in the sex trade -- an exotic dancer, on her last cross-country tour of the clubs that have been such an important part of her life. Well written and powerful, Strip City becomes, about midway through, the journal of a soul. It asks why we do what we do, what it means to say one is a feminist, and how to understand (with eyes wide open) an industry that is both liberating and degrading -- a job in some ways like many others, yet one ultimately corruptive of our very dreams, nightmares, fears, and desires.

Strip City is not a tell-all, although it tells much. It is one woman's attempt to come to terms with her past: to glorify the dance and not to victimize, preach, or pass judgment on the dancers or to mystify the work, the audience drawn to it, and (most of all) the toll on the women themselves. It is both painful and funny and cathartic for both writer and reader.

Most of all, it is a very moral tale, honestly told, deftly written, and exhibiting neither shame nor undue pride: an American tale, filled with pop culture images that remind us, over and over again, of the roles a prosperous, bountiful nation has allowed to (or forced on) women. Strip City provides us a dazzling, glitzy, and devastating meditation. ( Fall 2001 Selection)

San Francisco Chronicle
....funny, ardently Americana and intelligent.
San Francisco Bay Guardian
An engaging writer.
Burana brings the weight of her own experience together with a larger social history to create a compelling, insightful narrative. Strip City moves from the mechanics of Burana's job to the emotional repercussions. all the while remaining charming, intimate and brilliant
Smart and beautifully written...what's most dazzling is Burana's sharp-eyed wit.
Austin Chronicle
Witty and irreverent...the author is fascinating.
Rocky Mountain News
A colorful, often funny and always thought-provoking examination...Burana does a masterful job...with the kind of easy, intelligent style that makes other writers envious.
Engaging...profound and funny. The book is riveting and makes a fine contribution to the current culture wars over exotic dancing.
Seattle Weekly
She's a talented storyteller.
Palm Beach Post
Burana writes well...she's got a sense of humor and can capture a face in a sentence.
New York Times Book Review
Candid, juicy, streetwise prose...(Lily Burana) has the storyteller's gift.
Entertainment Weekly
What a provocative book...this quest doesn't smack of gimmickry.
Smart, entertaining, and sharply written...Burana is a shrewd, amused and honest participant-observer in the strip club underworld, and hers is the best in a recent crop of books by former sex workers.
Publishers Weekly
Facing imminent marriage, Burana, a journalist who has written for the 'New York Times Book Review', the 'Village Voice' and 'Spin', decides to make a yearlong "bachelorette odyssey" to revisit her former career as a stripper. She's exorcising some commitment panic, but also trying to reclaim some dignity for this devalued work. The sex trades may be the world's oldest professions, but where's their history, the "floozerati"? Burana wants to know. A self-proclaimed "sex-positive" feminist, she sees stripping as a choice, not just something women do because there's no other way to earn a buck. True, she herself first went to Peepland to make her rent money, but it also provided a "reprieve from rabid self-actualization" (e.g., studying and trying to get decent jobs). In her return to the "tiprail," she rediscovers the out-of-body high that sometimes graces strippers. But what does her fianc make of all this? And will she be seduced back to this gloriously exhibitionist career? Thankfully, there's a "catcher in the rye": Burana's enormous talents as a writer she has a good ear, a fine wit and an instinct for storytelling reveal another option, one that's perhaps not so different from her former m tier. Stripping means "reclaiming [her] sexuality in the public arena" which is exactly what this book does, too. Burana exposes herself with pride, style and a great sense of humor. Copyright 2001Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
No one gives strippers a chance except magazine writer turned autobiographer Burana, who just happens to have been one before her more "respectable" job came along. In this enthralling joy ride of a first book, Burana details the life of a stripper on the road, from the g-strings to the wigs. The book was born of the retired stripper's desire to confront her somewhat sketchy past head on. After laying out the necessary materials to be a fully functional stripper and taking a refresher class on pole dancing and other such duties, she is ready for the road. Through her nonjudgmental view, the reader becomes intimately connected to the life that Burana struggled to get away from for so long and is now squirming to get back into. Her own love of stripping or perhaps the power attached to it is easily conveyed in her gentle and honest prose; even the most conservative naysayer will be curious about this taboo job. If Burana is the class of the sex-worker industry, Sterry is the crass. This startlingly annoying memoir about a "renaissance" man's early foray into the prostitution scene of 1970 Los Angeles offers little in the way of decent prose. Not only is the writing sloppy and uninspired, it serves less to further the story and more to bolster his narcissistic view of himself. Although recounting the sexual escapades of a misspent youth has the potential to create an interesting read, this book falls short in the absence of an actual point. Sterry doesn't even try to feign a revelation, while his attempts to prove he can love without money just serve to reaffirm his shallowness. Maybe he should take some lessons from Burana in writing with heart rather than with sexual body parts. Rachel Collins, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Engaging memoir of a former stripper's last fling with the profession. A New York journalist and free spirit, Burana agreed to marry a handsome cowboy she met on a trip to Wyoming. Suddenly, settling down seemed impossible without examining the world of stripping where she had come of age, so Burana set about crafting a cross-country journey that would let her explore the profession that supported but eventually exhausted her. She prepares with a week of "stripper school" at the Pure Talent School of Dance, and then works in clubs from Colorado to Alaska. She reports on the business of stripping, her own stripping experience, dancers and their relationships, why men go to clubs, and what all this has to do with her. When she stops by the Exotic World Burlesque Museum in the California desert to get a sense of stripping's history, she imparts her own, a story that takes her from Times Square to San Francisco's bohemian scene. With appealing grace and humor, Burana sidesteps the pitfalls of writing about stripping-sensationalism, preachy moralism, self-righteousness-and instead ponders the historical and social complexities of such a ubiquitous, shadowy trade. With a deft touch, she answers the questions that you'd expect from a thoughtful stripper: How did you get into this? How does it feel? Don't you have any self-respect? And Burana is even-handed: for all the affirmative sisterhood-is-powerful moments, there is a flip side: the weariness of "stripper damage," with its "self-hatred as wide and deep as the sea." And always present is the pressure to remain glamorous-drilling out a belt buckle so it can be easily ripped open onstage, the requisite hours on the tanning bed,endless maintenance of hair and nails and mirrored velvet bikinis. Under all the camouflage, the author is entirely credible: When she asserts that "Stripping, at its best, feels like cheating death," one might even nod in understanding. Remarkably well-done: a complex and warm insider's take on a booming industry.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786886753
  • Publisher: Miramax Books
  • Publication date: 2/19/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336

Read an Excerpt


Spandex as a Second Language
It takes me several tries to get the bunny head thing just right.

As with much in life, it's a matter of positioning. You have to make sure you place the decal in the exact same spot every time, or you'll muck up the whole enterprise. I learned this the hard way. Careless application brought me, in succession, a three-eared bunny, then a bunny with too many eyes, then a blobby bunny with a club-ear and no distinct presence. Today, at the start of my tenth tanning session, I made sure the sticker was stuck just so, and when I'm done, I'll finally have what I am after: a small white patch in my tan, just below and to the left of my navel, in the shape of the Playboy bunny.

The girls who use the bunny heads are something of an amusement here at the busiest salon in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The plastic dish of decals sits next to the towels on a shelf by the cash register, in full view of every beautician and customer in the place. When a girl reaches into the dish, the women who run the shop look up from whatever make-over or pedicure they're doing and give one another a knowing glance. Oh, these ladies know that their job is to groom, not to judge -- if you want your hair dyed a shade of copper-penny red that hasn't been seen since the days of I Love Lucy or your nails air-brushed blue and orange to show team spirit when you go down to Denver for a Broncos game, they'll oblige without comment. But something about a girl with the bunny tan sets the beauticians spinning. She's a little tacky, a little wild. The kind of girl who drives up to the salon in her Camaro fifteen minutes before closing, grabs a decal from the dish, and strides into the tanning booth for her ten-minute fake bake. Afterward, she's off to the Outlaw Saloon for a night of drinking, flirting, and, if the air is right, fighting.

That's not really who I am, but for my purposes, it's an image I can live with.

I have been making twice-weekly trips to the tanning salon for several weeks now. I started out pale as milk but I'm making significant progress toward my goal of a sensuous golden brown. Never mind that up close, my skin is starting to look knobby and taut -- a little like the texture of a regulation football. The color is fantastic. From a distance, I'm the picture of health. I've never tanned in my life -- I was a Goth as a teenager and didn't leave the house much during daylight in my early twenties, so all this dark, rich pigment is a novelty. I think it's great.

My dermatologist begs to differ.

I spent the morning getting yelled at in the skin clinic.

I stopped by to see the doctor about a strange and sudden rash on my chin, and in an offhand moment I asked her, oh, by the way, if she would, please tell me about the effects of using a tanning bed.

It was an innocent question, and I simply was not prepared for the response. I gripped the edge of the counter in the examining room as the dermatologist dressed me down with vitriolic force strong as the heat from a blast furnace. "Oh, tell me you're not tanning," she moaned, closing her eyes and pressing her fingertips into her temples in frustration.

"Just a little," I lied, my eyes averted to the diagnostic posters on the exam room walls. Sebaceous Glands 101. Skin Occlusions At-A-Glance. Melanoma Made Easy.

"You seemed like such a smart person when you walked in here," she shrilled, "but after hearing what you've just said, I have to treat you totally differently!" She went on to tell me that by doing only ten tanning sessions a year -- a year, she repeated for emphasis -- I increase my risk of developing skin cancer seven times over.

The doctor spoke with the certain fury of a true believer, and she assured me that she had science to back her up. She called for her assistant to bring in a packet of information about indoor tanning. Slipping the thick sheaf of papers into a plastic sleeve, she said to me, "Do yourself a favor and stop right now. If you bought a package of tanning sessions that you haven't used up yet, give it to someone you hate."

With goggles to protect my eyes and a towel draped over my face, I lie in the tanning bed bathed in the eerie blue-purple glow. The industrial hum is oddly soothing, as if I'm a baby in a man-made womb listening to the muffled rhythms of the world outside. This snug, warm, thrumming space is all the universe I need. The white noise, the doctor told me, is part of what keeps tanning enthusiasts coming back, despite the known dangers. "Some people get addicted," she says. "Try meditation as a substitute."

In the packet she gave me is an article on the ills of tanning that says, "A tan is your skin's response to ultraviolet-induced injury; it's trying to tell you something. Just imagine if your skin could scream instead of tanning." I remember Fran Lebowitz writing about being on the phone with a Hollywood type, and describing him as "audibly tan." I am quite sure this is not what she meant. It would give a sensible person pause, this screaming-skin analogy. And if that wouldn't, the facts would: A tanning bed zaps the user with a day's worth of concentrated sun in ten minutes. Frequent use can cause premature aging, irreversible skin damage, and sun poisoning. One bad sunburn can equal years of accumulated exposure to natural sunlight.

But as far as risks go, tanning seemed pretty minimal compared to what I needed it for.

When a man gets engaged, his friends might throw him a bachelor party. They'll herd off to a club to see strippers, or order them in, and raise a glass to the groom -- that poor sucker, that lucky bastard. The bachelor party is a raucous, ritual demarcation between the chaos of single life and the mature orderliness of pairing off. One final night with the antiwife before wedding your wife-to-be, it's a time-honored way of saying, "Goodbye to all that."

But what does a former stripper do when she's about to get married?

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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2005

    Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America

    I loved it...thats all I can say...everyone should read it as far as I am concerned...another excellent read that is a new release is Dance to Despair(Memoirs of an Exotic Dancer) author Rebeckka Sathen Black...I could not put this book of the best about this subject matter, but very different from Strip City

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2005

    Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America

    fantastic was very witty, which I found quite captivating.....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2005

    Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America

    to say this book was great would be an understatement....another excelent book is the brand new release DAnce to Despair (Memoirs of an exotic dancer) by Rebeckka Sathen Black....this book was very different form strip city, but it was absolutley spellbinding,,,,I couldn't put it down...a must read...highly recommended..the creme de le creme of this type of book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2005

    Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America

    My friends and I loved this ws so amusing, well worth the money...another excellent new release 'Dance to Despair (Memoirs of an exotic Dancer) was also one of the best books that I have ever read on this topic..although entirley mesmorized me, and I could not put this book down and it takes alot to entertain me,,,order it...both of these books are fantastic

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2005

    Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America

    This book will keep you entertained for hours...I loved it...another great read that I could not put down this the new book release..Dance TO Despair( Memoirs of an Exotic Dancer)...This memoir was fascinating and one of the best books of this type that I have ever wonder it is so contoversial...order both of these

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2005

    Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America

    great book, I love the subject matter...order it...I also jut finished a brand new release DANCE TO DESPAIR (Memoirs of an Exotic Dancer) based on the true story of a womens 23 year career as a nude dancer in the chicgolands most infamous, mob connected strip clubs...I was spell bound by this womans story...written by Rebeckka Sathen Black...dont miss this one...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2005

    Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America

    this was a wonderful book, very interesting..I love memoirs...i recently just read a brand new release called Dance to Despair(Memoirs of an Exotic Dancer) by Rebeckka sathen black..based on the true story of a womens twenty three year career working as a nude dancer in the chigaoland areas strip clubs...a must read..I could not put this book down...dont miss it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2004

    highly recommended

    Lily Burana did a fantasic job writing this book. It is entertaining, heartfelt, and keeps the reader interested. It gives a detailed behind the scenes look for those of us curious but too afraid. It was very non judgemental. I recommend it to everyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2004

    Lily Rocks!

    A wonderful read, full of insight and retrospection. I highly recommend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2003

    Thank you Lily

    Once I began to read this book I could not put it down.After I finished it I loaned it to friend to read who incidently is an ex-stripper.My friend said it made her cry.She stated that Lily said things that reminded her of herself and her past.I was so stirred by the book and intrigued at the thought of stripping that I started a short lived carrer as a dancer.I figured at age 34 with the looks of a 25 year old why not give it a shot for a short time.I danced for 4 months. Much older than the young girl that Lily was when she started, I have avoided many of the traps that some of the younger girls allow themselves to fall into.I always thought of Lily and her words of wisdom while I was at the bar.I have since stopped dancing but I can't help but be facinated by the stripper in general.Thank you Lily for opening up the world of the exotic dancer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2003

    It's about time someone explained the business!!

    I read a review about this book and had to have it. I received it for Christmas 2001. Read it in 2 1/2 weeks. Lily tells it like it is & I will vouch for the things she says because I have been an exotic dancer off and on since I was almost 19 years old. People have a misunderstanding about dancers & the truth is not all dancers are drug addicts or prostitutes. A lot of us are working our way through college. I left the business 14 months ago and I am planning to go back because I have no man in my life right now. If people read this book, they would understand everything we have to do to make $.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2003

    Great writing, great story

    This book delivered exactly what I had anticipated: an entertaining, soulful read. It packed a greater punch, however, with the beautiful writing style of Ms. Burana. A must read for anyone who loves great writing talent.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2002

    Bit confused about the facts...

    I have just finished reading this book and wanted to say that I'm a bit confused. When reading the part about Peepland I just couldnt relate to anything the author said. I too worked in Peepland in NYC in the late 80's for about 4 years and I think that the author was melding a description of Show World into the Peepland atmosphere. There were absolutely no booths with glass seperating the customer from the dancer. The people that she mentions are familiar, like the stringy floor manager as well as the rotund black token changer - and the description of the building was basically on the money - only she didnt describe what actually went on in peepland. I wont get into it here either however I can tell you that it was not at all like what she described. Furthermore I'm even more confused because I dont recognize the picture of this author from the book. If she ever did work there with me, I dont know her. The book was amusing, but after having had firsthand experience in this industry I dont know what else to consider "truth" in this book so I'm considering it all amusing fiction.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2002

    Shares my story!

    This book was excellent. I went thru much of what Lilly did, and could relate to it all. She was very honest, and even some of the names she mentioned were people I knew. Everything she went thru I could feel also. I picked this book up and didn't put it down until I was done! Way to go Lilly!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2001

    A Standing Ovation

    I'm pleased that this book was chosen for the DISCOVER series. The merit is obvious, as this book has it all...wit, soul, humor, insight and range. I felt almost flattered by the opportunity to see behind the footlights, getting beyond a stripper's showy, sexy performance and into her deepest heart. But the emotional truth-telling about The Life isn't the only show-stopper. The travel elements, the history, and the reporting on the rituals, rules, and taboos of striptease were also very illuminating. Most thought-provoking

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2001


    In addition to the subject matter, which is intersting to me as an avid stripper-lover, the writing is tight and even, engaging and slick. This is a thoroughly enjoyable read - very entertaining without being 'fluff' reading. I have enjoyed Lily's work from her days as the Editrix of 'Taste of Latex' magazine and through her journalism career. I look forward to her next book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2001

    A thoughtful journey of self-discovery

    Strip City is a multi-faceted book that does more than explore the current state of a growing pop culture phenomenon. While Ms. Burana uses her own experiences to deftly explain the ins and outs of exotic dancing today, she also provides some much needed context by looking at the industry with a historian's eye. Readers are introduced to the early days of stripping in a wonderful chapter devoted to the overlooked and under recorded past of this profession. The other chapters don¿t disappoint either. This book is a travelogue, much in the tradition of Steinbeck or Least Heat Moon. Possessed of a keen eye and a wonderful ability to capture the flavor of her surroundings, Ms. Burana¿s America is simultaneously dark yet hopeful, full of pitfalls and con-artists as well as kind-hearted and authentic people. Deeply introspective, her journey is as much a search for self as it is an exploration of her former profession. As she unabashedly reveals the details of her life, her sense of humor repeatedly leavens a serious and thoughtful work with laugh-out-loud passages. Wonder what Jesus would make of a modern strip club? See page 315 for a riotous possibility. In a thoughtful exchange with her sister (a minister) , Ms. Burana discusses her life and the notion of ¿repenting.¿ Understandably uncomfortable with disavowing her past, Ms. Burana¿s sister helps her to see that repentance is not disavowing anything, but rather ¿facing in another direction,¿ trying something else. It¿s fortunate for the reading public that writing is the direction Ms. Burana chose--her work is a delight.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    stripping not just her clothes, but society

    When journalist Lily Burana became engaged, she chose a different type of bachelorette party than the majority of Americans. Being a former stripper, Lily decided to do a final tour in homage to her former profession that is looked down upon by much of society, including his patrons. How will her fiancé react and will the glitter and high of the striptease reclaim Lily? <P> STRIP CITY is an engaging autobiography that lays bare in a humorous manner Lily Burana's tremendous talent for stripping not just her clothes, but the mores of society. Ms. Burana uses humor, self-deprecating vulnerability, and tremendous amounts of pride to give a warm finger to the righteous while stripping naked to the morality that many hide behind. Anyone, who enjoys a witty, frisky, and somewhat satirical look from a writer who bares her soul by turning Matthew Arnold¿s ¿clothing theory of Man¿ (make that woman) into a deep look at life. <P>Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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