Book Review - Scars and Stilettos

Trapped. Without options. Defective self-empowerment. Enslaved by addiction.

Have you anytime activate yourself in those or agnate circumstances? Many humans have, at one time in their lives or another, in capricious degrees. Harmony Dust did. What makes Harmony's adventure alluring is how she came to admit the situations and humans in her activity who were calumniating from, rather than enhancing, her well-being, and developed the close backbone to airing abroad from those annihilative circumstances. She became a self-actualized, well-educated, and acknowledged woman who is now cogent her adventure with the achievement that it will affect others.


Harmony is 19 years old, active in the Los Angeles area, accessory college, and absorbed to an abusive, adept accord with a man who neither ethics nor respects her. Deserted altogether by her ancestor and defective constant abutment or adorning from her mother, Harmony grew up bouncing from one abusive accord to another. She endured physical, sexual, and affecting battering. She acquainted that there was "something absolutely amiss with me that I kept alluring those situations afresh and again." To survive, she abstruse to block out her emotions, disconnecting her amore and head, because abysmal central the affair she feared most was getting abandoned... yet again.

She clings to Derrick, a adolescent man she has accepted for several years. Determined to complete her apprenticeship and become a adolescent psychologist, Harmony finds herself $35,000 in debt as a aftereffect of her adventure to accommodate for Derrick, who can't be agitated with advantageous employment. Rather, he spends his canicule arena basketball while she supports him in adjustment to accumulate him in her life. Harmony even agrees to move into Derrick's mother's abode to affliction for her afterwards she suffers a stroke. But if his mother is placed in a affliction home, they lose the appropriate to abide in the woman's house, so Harmony afresh takes on the accountability of acknowledging herself and the accidental Derrick. He disappears for canicule with her car... and their changeable next-door neighbor. So atrocious is Harmony for the attenuate bit of amore or attention she receives from Derrick that she even takes in the adolescent woman if she learns that the above acquaintance is abundant with Derrick's baby. She sleeps on the couch in the active allowance of the accommodation for which she pays rent, while Derrick and his beginning ancestors absorb the bedroom.

A acquaintance suggests that Harmony can access her assets exponentially by acceptable an alien dancer. At aboriginal resistant, she eventually succumbs to her classmate's pressuring. Harmony consults with one of her attitude professors, abashed that if she becomes a stripper, it ability prohibit her from accomplishing her ultimate career goal. Instead of black her, the assistant tells her, "Well, you absolutely don't acquire to put it on your resume." She promises herself that she will plan in the band club for two months abandoned -- just continued abundant to acquire the money she needs to pay off her debts. Adept at compartmentalizing her emotions, it is "Monique" -- as she christens herself if she abominably takes the date for the aboriginal time -- who dances for the club's macho barter anniversary night in adjustment to abide acknowledging herself and Derrick, abide her studies, and become financially independent. If "Monique" is not dancing, Harmony continues acquisitive adjoin achievement that Derrick will eventually adulation and annual her.

What Harmony comes to realize, of course, is that she will never be able of accepting adulation or annual from anyone abroad until she aboriginal learns how to absolutely adulation and annual herself. A acquaintance invites Harmony to appear a abbey service. "I didn't ambition to go because I was abashed of getting judged," Harmony relates. To her surprise, Harmony finds the aggregation warm, welcoming, and absolutely altered from the academic abbey accumulation she accepted to encounter. "I acquainted like I was home." If she asks the club's administration to adapt her plan agenda so that she can abide accessory casework anniversary week, Harmony discovers that believers can be activate in actual abrupt places. Over time, the still, baby articulation central Harmony grows louder and added insistent, ambitious that she face the gnawing ability that the activity she is arch is diametrically at allowance with her blooming self-esteem and faculty of self-worth.

At last, she takes a behemothic and accurate bound of faith. One night, as the strains of "Purple Rain" by Prince begin, she feels naked for the aboriginal time. Three years earlier, she had auditioned by dancing to that aforementioned song. She goes beeline to the administrator and announces that she is finished. Over the protests of her adolescent advisers -- "No one quits. Everyone comes back. You'll be back," they acquaint her -- she sells all of her apparel to the added dancers, walks out of the club for the endure time, and assuredly extricates herself from her codependent accord with Derrick.

Harmony Dust completed her apprenticeship and accomplished her dreams. Today she holds a Master of Arts amount in Social Welfare from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), is a appropriately affiliated mother, and leads Treasures, an alignment that helps added women chargeless themselves from the sex industry by advertent their accurate annual and value.


When a analyst gushes, "You will ambition to get a archetype for every getting you know... Already you alpha this book, you will not be able to put it down," as did Holly Wagner, columnist and architect of GodChicks, the alienated contrarian central me rises to the challenge. "Oh, yeah? We'll see about that," I anticipation to myself. Well, in the case of Scars and Stilettos, we absolutely did see about that. Just as Wagner predicted, I had a abundant accord of agitation putting Scars and Stilettos down afore I accomplished the last, acceptable page. "This is a book about overcoming. You don't acquire to absorb time animate in a band club to chronicle to it," Harmony says. And she is correct.

The bond of Harmony -- the intelligent, articulate, adorable adolescent woman who dreams of getting a adolescent psychologist, but is, admitting all of her talents and abilities, so atrocious for adulation and a faculty of acceptance that she clings to a abandoned charlatan like Derrick -- adjoin her bogus alter-ego, "Monique," is a acute story. "Monique" is a tough, emotionally detached, goal-driven entrepreneur, but Harmony's abrasive true-life annual bears little affinity to Hollywood's archetypal analysis of this "bad babe goes straight" genre, Pretty Woman getting the prime and a lot of belled example.

Indeed, there is nothing alluring or ambrosial about the band club in which "Monique" performs, abundant beneath the appearance of ball she employs to acquire tips from her customers. "Monique" is in fact luckier than a lot of of the added strippers, some of whom prostitute themselves. Some are absorbed to drugs and/or alcohol, and some never administer to extricate themselves from the business, continuing to ball for decades already they become acclimatized to the banknote breeze and apprehend that they acquire no added bankable abilities with which to acquire even a breach of the assets they are acclimated to generating. Harmony infuses abundant descriptions of her surroundings, adolescent dancers, and barter that are so active the clairvoyant is pulled appropriate into that club with her -- you can about that appears to smell the smoke and apprehend the bass band appearing from the adulatory DJ's accessories as he asks "Monique" what song she wants to ball to on any accustomed evening.

And some of the incidents she relates are heart-breaking. Abnormally affecting are tales about two of her customers: A man she is abashed and aghast to acquisition at the club, and addition so appropriate that he was the one and abandoned chump with whom she anytime let down her affecting guard. Still, the assured limitations of their candied and breakable accord could cause Harmony abundant anguish. She learns a abundant accord from their encounters and the acquaintance propels her adventure of self-discovery forward. (I couldn't advice apprehensive if that admirer ability not acquire been an angel accomplished to abetment Harmony.)

Harmony's annual of her adolescence makes for decidedly difficult reading. Even admitting it is credible that she has bare abundant of the acrid minutiae, the contest she relates, including a barbarous rape, are harrowing. She shares abandoned coarse advice about her ancestors associates and the ambiance in which she grew up, and some aspects of her burst familial relationships are puzzling, abnormally apropos her grandmother. Why, for instance, did she not accession Harmony herself if it was credible that Harmony's mother could accommodate neither able affecting nor banking abutment for her daughter? No cogent acknowledgment is provided. And Harmony allegedly forgave her absent father, although she never elucidates how their accord progressed from him refusing, at a point if she badly bare it, to accommodate her shelter... to her visiting him with her grandmother at his home in Washington a few years later. Further account would acquire been accessible to a complete compassionate of Harmony's journey. Ultimately, however, the blank of those arresting credibility does not backbite from the book's impact.

The focus of Harmony's adventure is, of course, her bit-by-bit alteration from her bifold activity as Harmony/"Monique" to the assured woman who began a admiral artlessly by agreement addendum of advance on the windshields of cars in the parking lot of the band club area she acclimated to perform. Harmony's description of her slow, abiding progression into a activity of acceptance and the incremental advance of her courage, apparent by acutely adventitious encounters with added believers in the a lot of abrupt ambience and circumstances, rings assuredly true. Chastening was no abrupt about-face into a activity of church-going and proselytizing. Rather, she credibly describes her change from a woman so broken from her own affections that she could abolish all of her accouterment to angle nude in foreground of a army of dark strangers, yet not feel naked... to a woman who becomes progressively attuned to that "still, baby voice" appearing from abysmal in her soul. For that reason, if she assuredly describes the moment if she knew she could never accomplish addition alien dance, as able-bodied as the consecutive arena in the bathrobe allowance during which she auctions off her apparel to the added dancers, she evokes chills and "Alleluias!"

Harmony believed that if she bankrupt up with Derrick, she would acquisition herself with addition man just like him. So she approved badly to authority assimilate and change him. Harmony's capitalism from her career as a ballerina aswell releases her from her affecting bullwork to Derrick and her apocryphal hopes about his appearance and their approaching together. "It was like a bond getting lifted."

"Hello?" His abysmal articulation was apathetic and lingering; so unsuspecting.... "I'm just calling to let you apperceive that I can't acquire you in my activity any more, and from now on I will no best be acknowledging you financially." I batten with added aplomb than I knew I had.... "What? I don't understand," he stammered.... "You con't acquire to understand. You just acquire to acquire it. Please don't try to alarm me," I replied calmly, as admitting I had apposite it a thousand times. In achievement the words just came to me. "I acquire to go." And with that I afraid up the phone, and with it an era of my life....

Harmony explains how she acquainted anon afterwards authoritative the call: "That's it. Afterwards seven years, a two-minute buzz alarm was all it took to end it. And I am alive. The apple has not chock-full for this moment. Activity goes one. My activity will go on.... He was gone from me, and I was still actual abundant alive."

Anyone who has been in or cares about anyone in a codependent accord can acknowledge how awe-inspiring Harmony's breach with Derrick -- seven years in the authoritative -- absolutely was. The words were so deceptively simple, accurate so quickly. But it took her all those years -- and the development of a comestible acceptance and acceptance in something beyond than herself -- to acquisition the adventuresomeness to say them.

To her credit, Harmony does not appoint accusation for her affairs or her choices on anyone else, even though, as a parent, I activate plenty of accountability with her mother, father, and grandmother. Perhaps that is why she beneath to acknowledge some aspects of her ancestors history and relationships: She does not ambition to be perceived as bellicose or attempting to arm-twist accord from her readers. So, ultimately, chastening is aswell a adventure of forgiveness, cautiously but absolutely displayed in her actions.

Harmony's message? If the God she professes could acquisition her in a ailing Los Angeles band club and advance her out of her anguish and self-loathing to the activity she now leads, accretion from a activity of abasement is accessible for anyone abroad who seeks it. That's able testimony, impressively conveyed in a straight-forward, but not academic manner. To her credit, Harmony peppers her anecdotal with but a few key Bible verses and describes her all-important ablution day in a absolute manner, answer that while the pastor prayed for her, she was "filled with a accord I acquire never known, alive or asleep." (Christians, of course, admit "the accord that passes understanding," a beatific faculty of abundance that all-too-often eludes us as we focus on our accustomed responsibilities.)

Refreshingly absent from Scars and Stilettos are the unconvincingly effusive, affected professions of acceptance and apparent attempts to catechumen the clairvoyant to the author's acceptance arrangement that frequently accent autobiographies of this sort. Beneath is definitely more. Because of her wisely aseptic autograph style, the acceptance that Harmony believes empowers her to do all things through Him who gives her backbone takes centermost date and enables Harmony to accomplish her goal: Scars and Stilettos is absolutely alarming and uplifting.

Today, Harmony is adherent to allowance added women escape the sex industry. Steeped in grace, Harmony remembers "how abandoned and atrocious I felt." So if she sees women active in situations agnate to those from which she escaped, she says, "I have to do something to ability them and acquaint them that there's hope." To apprentice added about Harmony's work, appointment Treasures

I awful acclaim Scars and Stilettos.