Would her life have been better if she’d had sex with her supervisor when she was 23? Hester Smith is a woman who always played life near the sidelinesuntil she decides to rescue a teenage Mexican prostitute. She’s up against the border sex trade in Southern California that works like a drug cartel, where the smuggled contraband is teenage girls forced to work as prostitutes in undeveloped canyons just outside suburbia. Law enforcement agencies know it happens, as do investigative journalists, yet the illegal sex trade continues to exist.
While she prepares for the rescue, Hester discovers that the man with whom she almost had an affairher mentor when she was a 23-year-old student teacherhad been simultaneously having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student. Hester mines her own memories of the would-be affair and ultimately tracks down the former 16-year-old. When these two women with a shared scandal in their pasts confront one another, the meeting coincides with the last step necessary to rescue the teenage prostitute Hester has tried to protect. It is only this mayhem that allows Hester to finally take ownership of her decisions and regrets.
|Edition description:||Second Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Cris Mazza is also the author of Something Wrong with Her, a hybrid memoir published by Jaded Ibis Press that is the companion piece to Various Men Who Knew Us As Girls. She has authored over a dozen other novels, including Trickle-Down Timeline, Waterbaby, and Is It Sexual Harassment Yet?. A native of Southern California, Mazza now lives in Chicago and is a professor in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois Chicago.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Cris Mazza weaves together the stories of a virgin dork, a teenage siren and a pair of pitiable sex slaves in the novel Various Men Who Knew Us As Girls. Set in the mid-2000s with vast flashbacks to the late '70s, Various Men reads like a memoir (indeed, the foreword reads, "Because this is a true story, I've had to change all the names, even my own. The rest is true"). The interplay between the different stories is inspired; the juxtapositioning raises questions about desire and harassment and thoroughly muddies the line between socially acceptable and criminal. Hester is the main character, the late-blooming dork. Hester. Really, I know. Clearly an obvious reference to the adulterous protagonist in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. There are probably other literary references that went over my head, and Mazza's choice of Cabaret as a major device might reference decadence and heartbreak or it might mean more than that; I'm not sure. The whole book reads like that, like there's an inside joke a more astute reader might catch. The conditional verb forms in the flashbacks are awkward and interfere with a compelling narrative, especially in the beginning, but the story climaxes (yes, I just said that) satisfactorily. Though she runs the risk of self-conscious belly button gazing (she admits as much and then writes, "Tell their story, leave your extraneous self-absorption out of it. Please realize: it's too late now), Mazza successfully explores the nature of sensuality, sexuality and pornography, and she refuses to classify any character in black or white, predator or victim. Like some of its characters, the book's strengths outweigh its weaknesses.