9th Ave: Chris Belcher with Celeste Chan

Tuesday, July 12, 2022 - 7:00pm

Cover of Chris Belcher's Pretty Baby. It's a watercolor illustration of yellow and blue coming from the top of the frame in rays of light. There is an feminine figure painted in the center from the legs down, in highwaisted panties and a high heel with an ankle strap.
Join us on Tuesday, July 12 at 7pm PT when Chris Belcher joins us to celebrate her memoir, Pretty Baby, with Celeste Chan at 9th Ave!

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Praise for Pretty Baby
Pretty Baby is a muscular, canny memoir about labor and power and gender; it shimmers with rage and insight and I couldn’t put it down. What a fucking gorgeous book.” —Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House

“Chris Belcher's Pretty Baby reminds me why I fell in love with memoirs in the first place. Sentence by knife-sharpened sentence, the personal history she examines makes space for both the ferocity of her past selves and the resonance of who she is now. With wit, seductive candor and a willingness to question the very answers she used to swear by, Belcher doesn’t just hand us her story; she demands that we interrogate ourselves in the process.” —Saeed Jones, author of How We Fight for Our Lives

“Count me among Chris Belcher's forever fans. Pretty Baby is a taut and intelligent story of defining one’s selfhood and relationship ideals while toggling between the seemingly disparate worlds of sex work and academia, which are (of course) more similar than many would think. It is also an engrossing queer bildungsroman whose nervy, sympathetic protagonist had my heart from page one.” —Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and Body Work

About Pretty Baby
The dominatrix is the id of American femininity. She says the words that we all wish we could say when we find ourselves frozen in the presence of men. No is principal among them.

So writes Chris Belcher, who appeared destined for a life of conventional femininity after she took first place in an infant beauty contest—a minor glory that can follow you around a working-class town of 1,600 people in rural West Virginia. But when she came out as queer, the conservative community that had once celebrated its prettiest baby turned on her.

A decade later, living in Los Angeles and trying to stay afloat in the early years of a PhD program, Belcher plunges into the work of a pro domme. Branding herself as LA’s Renowned Lesbian Dominatrix, she specializes in male clients who want a domme to make them feel worthless, shameful, and weak—all the abuse regularly heaped upon women for free. A queer woman whom men can trust with the unorthodox sides of their sexualities, Belcher is paid to be the keeper of the fantasies that they can’t enact in their everyday relationships. But moonlighting as a sex worker also carries risks, like the not-so-submissive who tries to turn the tables and the jealous client out for revenge.

As Belcher moves between the embodied world of the pro domme and the abstract realm of academia, she discovers how lessons from the classroom apply to the dungeon, and vice versa. Still, fear that her doctoral program won’t approve burdens her with a double life. Pretty Baby is her second coming out.

In this sharp and discerning memoir, we see through Belcher’s eyes how power and desire can be renegotiated—or reinforced.

About Chris Belcher
Chris Belcher
is a writer, professor, and former sex worker. She completed a PhD in English at the University of Southern California, where she is now Assistant Professor (Teaching) of Writing and Gender Studies. Under her working name, Natalie West, she edited the acclaimed anthology We Too: Essays on Sex Work and Survival. Born and raised in West Virginia, she now lives in Los Angeles.

About Celeste Chan
Celeste Chan is a writer and filmmaker, schooled by Do-It-Yourself culture and immigrant parents from Malaysia and the Bronx. She founded and directed Queer Rebels (a queer and trans people of color arts project), created and curated experimental films, joined Foglifter Literary Journal as an editor and board member, and toured with legendary feminist road show, Sister Spit. Her writing can be found in The Rumpus, cream city review’s genrequeer folio, Gertrude, Citron Review, and elsewhere. In 2016, she launched QTPOC Free School, a monthly writing workshop for LGBTQ people of color. Following that, in 2017, she launched writing workshops for LGBTQ youth at the Queer Ancestors Project. Her work has also been supported by CA Arts Council, Bread Loaf/Rona Jaffe, Lambda Literary, Hedgebrook, Hypatia, Mesa Refuge, Soaring Gardens, and beyond. Celeste is now focused on writing her memoir, examining intergenerational trauma and how her family survived WWII. 


Pre-Order Now Badge
Pretty Baby: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982175825
Availability: Coming Soon. Pre-Order Now!
Published: Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster - July 12th, 2022

A queer teen rebel escapes small-town Appalachia and becomes Los Angeles’s Renowned Lesbian Dominatrix in this searing and darkly funny memoir that upends our ideas about desire, class, and power.

Pretty Baby is a muscular, canny memoir about labor and power and gender; it shimmers with rage and insight and I couldn’t put it down.

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