The True Story of a Secret Life
By Melissa Febos
(St. Martin's Griffin, Paperback, 9780312583781, 288pp.)
Publication Date: July 19, 2011
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A dark, wild, powerful memoir about a young woman’s transformation from college student to professional dominatrixWhile a college student at The New School, Melissa Febos spent four years working as a dominatrix in a midtown dungeon. In poetic, nuanced prose she charts how unchecked risk-taking eventually gave way to a course of self-destruction. But as she recounts crossing over the very boundaries that she set for her own safety, she never plays the victim. In fact, the glory of this memoir is Melissa’s ability to illuminate the strange and powerful truths that she learned as she found her way out of a hell of her own making. Rest assured; the reader will emerge from the journey more or less unscathed.
Melissa Febos is co-curator and host of the Mixer Reading and Music Series, she holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, and teaches at SUNY Purchase College and The Gotham Writers’ Workshop
Melissa Febos graduated from college with straight As and a prestigious internship. She also led a secret life as a dominatrix. Her memoir, Whip Smart, which details her time working in a sex dungeon in midtown Manhattan, is now available in paperback. More at NPR.org
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“In her provocative debut…Febos pulls no punches as she describes in minute, and at times horrific, detail her working life…In lesser hands this could be a maudlin, salacious tale, but Febos’s electrifying prose and unremitting honesty continually challenge the reader. Expertly captures grace within depravity.”-Kirkus Reviews
“Febos's debut about her four years working as a dominatrix at a midtown Manhattan “dungeon” cuts a sharp line between prurience and feminist manifesto…In this emotionally stark, excoriating work, Febos mines the darkest, most troubling aspects of human interaction.”-Publisher’s Weekly
"Febos can really write, and it is the narrative voice she inhabits, at once honest and dispassionate, curious and even idealistic, that turns a timeworn story into a smart, provocative thrill-ride of a book…For all its jaw-dropping shock value...Whip Smart is, in the end, a treatise on the psychology of sex and power, subversion and submission—humanity." -David Goodwillie for The Daily Beast
“Memoirs about salacious adventures have two requirements: they must be generous with the goods and astute with the analysis. Febos delivers on both, and with relish. No salty detail escapes her eye or goes unexamined. Febos is too self-aware to not see her past clearly, and too talented a writer to not make it fascinating.” -The Economist
“Melissa Febos examines, with frankness, generosity, and unexpected grace, the four years she spent working as a dominatrix in a midtown Manhattan dungeon…her revelations are often funny, occasionally sad, and fearlessly candid." -San Francisco Bay Guardian
“Febos’ journeying into the darkest corners of both her and others’ minds is entertaining and enlightening; there are weird, eye-popping, sad, hilarious, and all-too-human episodes and encounters on almost every page. Febos writes of her own walk on the wild side like a seasoned, and chastened, pro.” -Elle Magazine
"[Melissa Febos] ably dissects her own and others' psychological urges and sexual politics and presents it all in a way that renders the title apt. The memoir should be right at home next to Mary Karr, Nick Flynn and Alex Lemon on the bookshelf."-New York Press
“All memoirs are an attempt to follow a trail of breadcrumbs home, yet WHIP SMART steps off the path, into the wooded shadows, and names that part of ourselves that could linger there forever. Melissa Febos masterfully brings us into these unexpected, unsettling places, the least of which are the dungeons she so vividly—briefly—occupies. WHIP SMART is a wild, bright-eyed, ride home.”
--Nick Flynn, New York Times bestselling author of ANOTHER BULLSHIT NIGHT IN SUCK CITY
“WHIP SMART is remarkably honest, brave and provocative about growing up: the pleasures and perils of being visible, the temptations of being numb, and the weird kick of being desired.”
--Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone critic, and NY Times bestselling author of LOVE IS A MIX TAPE
“Mesmerizing. A brave, darkly wild and powerful memoir, Melissa Febos's fearless journey through drugs and dungeons into the uncharted territory of true intimacy will shock, inspire, and leave you breathless. Don’t even think about resisting."
--Rachel Resnick, author LOVE JUNKIE
“Melissa Febos takes us by the hand and leads us into a curious, disturbing, and funny world of a dominatrix, and she does so with often startlingly beautiful, expansive prose. That would be engaging enough. But what's even more gripping is Febos' fierce intelligence as she examines herself inside it. A must read for anyone interested in enlarging his or her understanding of sexual politics.”
--Kerry Cohen, author of LOOSE GIRL
"Melissa Febos writes with lacerating wit and insight into the world of the professional dominatrix, saving the sharpest sting for herself. An unsparing, deep, and dazzling read.
--Janice Erlbaum, author of GIRLBOMB & HAVE YOU FOUND HER