Upon reading Kate Holden’s won derful autobiography In My Skin, published by Text Publishing in 2005, many people were surprised to learn that its author was a heroin addict and professional sex worker for five years.
In fact this was, arguably, part of why the book received such a large amount of media attention.
The reason for people’s surprise was because Kate Holden does not fit the classic picture of someone you may expect to find at a brothel. At the time of the book’s release, she was known as a newspaper columnist and author of short stories, book reviews and essays, and a prominent figure on Melbourne’s literary and journalism scene.
Nonetheless, in In My Skin she speaks frankly and honestly of her struggles with addiction, including her relapses, and her time spent in two of Melbourne’s brothels – as well as her time soliciting on the streets of St Kilda.
Another striking thing about the book was the colourful way in which her life at the brothels is described. She doesn’t speak of daily pain, grubby men, heartache and a feeling of self-sacrifice – though of course, as with any job, there are moments of suffering and struggle.
Rather Kate talks about the interesting men, the friends she made in other sex workers, the personages she took on for different clients, and the general feeling of empowerment she got from her work. She enjoyed feeling beautiful, appreciated, and having the power to give pleasure.
In My Skin has now been published in the USA, UK, Germany, Turkey, Finland, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Brazil, Italy and France. It’s also received considerable acclaim, including being voted one of the State Library of Victoria’s top 5 titles.
After reading the book, I can say that any praise is well deserved.