slashmarks (slashmarks) wrote in bookish,

Title: The Education of a Very Young Madam
Author: Ma-Ling Lee
Verdict: 4/5
Publisher’s synopsis:

A stripper at age fifteen, involved with major-league gang members before she was twenty, and a madam raking in over $20,000 a day only a few years later, Ma-Ling Lee has a tale to tell about life.

The Education of a Very Young Madam is the compulsively readable, fast-paced story of how Ma-Ling Lee went from living in a comfortable Connecticut suburb to founding a lucrative but illegal “escort serve.”

Korean born and adopted by an American family, M-Ling began her career in the sex business at the age of thirteen. “Taken in” by strippers, pimps, and prostitutes, she soon became an expert at negotiating the hard-and-fast ways of life on the streets.

Ma-Ling’s natural knack for marketing and managing a business led her to open her first brothel at the age of sixteen. After the police shut her down, she knew it was time to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the anonymity of the Internet. She bought her first Internet mailing list, set up an offshore server, and targeted a huge middle-class clientele.

And business thrived.

In her own frank and candid voice, Ma-Ling describes the difficulties – and the economic advantages – of running an illegal business. From clients’ outrageous and often hilarious fetishes to the hardships of living off the grid to the heartbreak of watching friends get destroyed by drug addiction, Ma-Ling refuses to shy away from the truth of what the prostitution business has become. The madam explains how technology has not only revolutionized the sex industry but also regulated business by ensuring quality, safety, and efficiency.

The business has never been better.

Ironically, Ma-Ling Lee’s memoir serves a very good illustration of the type of girl most people think of when they hear “prostitute,” though she manages them instead of servicing clients herself. Far from Belle de Jour’s tale of an enjoyable business, she’s been abused and used by a variety of gang boyfriends since she was thirteen, and admits to having little to no respect for her own employees.

That said, the book is a fascinating illustration of the prostitution industry, and extremely up front. There are times when her life seems more like an action movie than something that could possibly have happened in the real world – as she herself states, it’s the kind of thing most people can only read about.

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