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A Tour de Force
Published Work: 
Sarah

Laura Albert’s Sarah, written as JT Le Roy is a tour de force. Truly an unusual book. Sometimes offensive, often hilarious and always passionate. In an interview on the Moth, Laura Albert said that she had always wanted to be a golden haired boy, so beautiful that people would continue to love him even when he was very bad. She creates and inhabits such a boy in “Sarah” a young lot lizard whose prostitute mother alternately neglects and plays with like a doll. The young narrator’s only ambition is to become the most famous “lot lizard” in the world of truck stops. Since his pimp Glad Grateful ETC,won’t let him go with the rougher men  he strikes out on his own fleeing to a rival violent pimp named Le Loup and a picaresque journey begins. Albert plays with language just as she does sexual identity. In one place the young boy-girls are  described in Shakespearean terms as so“comely” that you wouldn’t know they are boys unless you spotted the raccoon penis bone necklaces around their necks. (Lot lizards and penis bone necklaces can be seen on the internet.) At another time the language suggests Mark Twain. The narrator, nicknamed Cherry Vanilla is “two curves and a cuss” away from being a teenager.

The book veers between weird darkness and hilarity in a way that always surprises. There are some merely comic riffs—Albert’s lengthy description of the dishes created by her truck lot’s gourmet chef. His specialty crème brulee.  Some are verbal jokes-- the girl-boys are called pavement princesses –playing on a trade mark for young women’s sport ware and the madam in charge of the prostitutes is called Mother Shapiro. At times Albert veers into blasphemy. There is a scene in the center of the book where the boy is worshiped as a saint, a reincarnation of the biblical Sarah and hoisted aloft by truckers singing must Jesus bear the cross alone, while girl prostitutes offer obscene prayers to an Antelope Head. Le Loup comments…whore or saint it doesn’t matter, they both bring in money.

But there are serious issues in the book: abuse and exploitation among them. The narrator is betrayed, his masquerade as a girl is discovered. He is shamed, his beautiful hair shorn and finally tortured most cruelly. When he finally returns to his own pimp it is as a broken boy. We are left with feelings of sadness and compassion for the bright and imaginative child whose life offers such brutal choices.