Book Review: How Poetry Saved My LIfe: A Hustlers Memoir

A candid account of Amber Dawns search for truth

It must have been a year ago when I went to my first Red Umbrella Diaries meeting where I heard Amber Dawn read a poem to a room of sex worker, their friends and allies. As she stood at the podium, I was jarred by her casual, wry and witty account of her experiences as a prostitute in Vancouver. Perhaps I’m misusing the word ‘casual,’ but, in my personal history working in the sex industry, it’s a challenge to be candid about the content of your chronicles when most other stories of the millions upon millions of women who hustle are swept under the rug. Dawn reminds us that our stories are barely told, especially when we’re as queer as A Clockwork Orange.

So when a copy of How Poetry Saved My Life fell into my lap, I immediately recognized Dawn’s flaming locks meeting with dancing and twirling ink along her arms. I cracked the spine and sat with her words on my couch. I stayed there for a very long time.

How Poetry Saved My Life is a collection of stories, poems and discussions that invite and inspire you to reexamine your own beliefs, stereotypes and experiences as you’re taken inside seedy rub and tug parlours, university campuses, carnivals and magical girl-on-girl happenings with closeted celebrities.

As a queer, small-town-Ontario girl cum straight-for-pay body of business, I especially related to this book… I kinda wish Amber and I could high-five, you know? But truthfully, this book is for everyone. Amber Dawn’s voice is heartbreakingly sensitive, yet unabashed. The empowerment and solace she found in the poetry that saved her life is contagious.


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