Chick-lit loving islandistas may well know of Tracy Quan, even if they haven’t heard of her.
That’s because Quan, born to Trinidadian parents in the United States (but raised in Canada) is the author-cum-central character of the (in?)famous Diary of a Call Girl series.
In truth and in fact, the central character of the series – Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, Diary of a Jet-Setting Call Girl and Diary of a Married Call Girl – is named Nancy Chan.
But her life so closely parallels Tracy’s that it is difficult to see the series as anything but semi-autobiographical. Kind of like V.S. Naipaul (who one of her character terms “that reactionary coolie’ in ‘Married Call Girl, but we digress) and ‘A House for Mr. Biswas’.
Like Nancy, Tracy is of your typically pelau Trinidadian ancestry – a lot of Chinese with a bit of Indian, African and Dutch thrown in. Her Trini-ness is liberally scattered throughout the books, with references to Naipaul, Mighty Sparrow and wry quips on Trinidad’s unique race relations, like the following one:
In Trinidad, people don’t make adoring remarks about the mixing of the races. They either take it for granted ot disapprove. My Chinese grandparents disapproved and took it for granted.
Like Nancy, Tracy also worked as a call girl, ran away from home when she was a teen and decided upon her ‘career’ from a young age. According to her Wikipedia page, she (Tracy) read Xaviera Hollander’s Happy Hooker when she was 10 and decided then to become a prostitute, liking the idea of being an independent and self-employed woman.
I kid you not. Like we said, she is an islandista we’re intrigued by. Her views are unorthodox to say the least but in her writings she never sounds like she is making excuses for a lifestyle gone awry. She was … a happy hooker.
Quan herself admits that the lines between Tracy and Nancy are blurred. In her salon.com series which was the launchpad to her eventual best-selling series, she wrote:
I’m unable to give a completely straight answer because, well, I am like Nancy in some ways. Fact and fiction are often blurred in Nancy’s life, and in mine. Like Nancy, I ran away from home during my teens, and I know what it’s like to take pride in a job while keeping it a secret.
She eventually moved from sex work into writing about sex and the sex industry, first with the salon column, then with her book series. She is now a regular columnist for the UK Guardian and has an enviable writing track record, including Cosmo, the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Unlike Nancy though, she is open about her now-former career and has served as a spokesperson for Prostitutes of New York, (PONY) a sex workers advocacy group.
Her books are a tremendous read, with a lot of detail about the sex industry, layered history of the sex workers advocacy movement and the cliquism and classifications within both. For instance, take this quote from Diary of a Married Call Girl where her character Nancy muses about the social differences between strippers and call girls.
But that’s the difference between the topless and bottomless sectors. Dancers and call girls have completely different priorities. For one thing, we’re more concerned about appearances. See an elderly billionaire in private? By the hour? No problem. Becoming his thirty-something child bride- now that I would have to explain to my family. What people can see is what’s really at stake. As a hooker, you can have sex with multitudes and still be respectable, as long as people don’t know. Topless dancers have no privacy. The topless definitions of success, respectability, what’s okay, what’s not – it’s a language I’ll never understand.
The hypocrisy of it is hilarious in a way but it is also intriguing to see the thinking that would allow a woman to be comfortable with being a ‘working girl’ and have it broken down like that.