Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Blog Tour: Scars & Stilettos (Review & Interview)

Harmony Dust could have kept moving forward, putting aside the pain and agony of her past life as an exotic dancer.

Married and pursuing a career in social work, Dust’s new “life” looked very different from the time she spent dancing in a totally nude strip club.

Instead of running away, Dust chose to face her past head on by telling her story - the good, the bad and the downright ugly – in order to pass along the hope and encouragement she found in her faith in Jesus Christ to women working within the sex industry.

“I have always believed that story is a very powerful tool in reaching and impacting others,” Dust explained. “From early on in my walk with God, I knew that He wanted to use my story.  I knew that it was something that I would not just ‘overcome’ and then keep silent about. 

“When I first started Treasures [her outreach and support to women in the sex industry,] I didn’t want to go into the strip clubs and start preaching at the women, but I wanted them to begin to ponder God’s love for them and the purpose He has for their lives.”

Dust said she knew the best method included relating her own story – which she now been expanded into her memoir “Scars And Stilettos: The Transformation Of An Exotic Dancer.”

In her memoir, Dust recounts the choices and circumstances, which led to become an exotic dancer. It also details how she found hope through faith in Jesus.

“This is a book about overcoming,” she explained. “You don’t have to spend time working in a strip club to relate to it.  It is a story of God showing up in all of my pain and desperation and showing me the way out.”

She also sees her story as a way to humanize the women “on the other end of the dollar” in the sex industry.

“If you see the humanity in someone, it becomes difficult to objectify and sexualize them,” Dust explained. “It also becomes difficult to judge them.”

Relating Painful Memories
“[Writing the story] has been a process of surrender for me,” Dust said. “At the end of the day, this is not just my story…it’s God’s.  This isn’t about seeing my name on blog sites or in bookstores, but about letting God use the pain from my past to impact others and encourage them that there is hope for them (and their loved ones) too.”

Dust said the hardest aspect of her story to talk about related to her mother.

“I didn’t want to write my story at the expense of the healing that is taking place in our relationship,” she said. “I wanted to tell the truth without making myself into a martyr.”

She also doesn’t believe her story is complete.

“If you ask me, my story isn’t finished and I fully believe that the best is yet to come. I am a girl on a journey with God,” Dust said. “It is my hope that readers will see themselves in my story and will be encouraged that there is no place too far from God’s reach.”

Reaching Into The Darkness
Dust believes that more women than ever are becoming part of the sex industry, for a variety of reasons, including the growth of the internet and the accessibility of porn, which has created a huge demand for woman to work in the area.

“Culturally, we not only condone the objectification and sexualization of women, but we glamorize it.  This is evident in magazines, music videos, tv etc.,” she said. “We have become comfortable with, and really quite good at, ‘selling sex.’

"Through the media, women are taught that their sexuality is a currency and a profitable commodity. In other cases, in a world where women are still oppressed globally and denied access to education, it is often a matter of survival.”

Using her experiences as a base, Dust formed Treasures (www.iamatreasure.com). In the ministry, volunteers work together to reach out and help restore women.

“Our core message to the women is that they are loved, valued and purposed,” Dust said. “This message is so powerful that many women collapse in our arms and weep at hearing it.  We believe that true transformation is the result of a heart changed by the love of God.”

Through the ministry, teams of volunteers go into more than 150 strip clubs annual around Los Angeles area. Volunteers take gift bags filled with cosmetics, jewelry and the simple message that the women working in these clubs are “loved beyond measure, daughters of a King.”

Additionally, each woman who contacts Treasurers receives an individualized care package with books and resources intended to bring inspiration and to encourage her in her faith.

Trained volunteers follow up with women who contact the ministry, providing lay counseling and life coaching. Support is offered in forms of employment referrals, professional counseling and additional services to help a woman flourish “into the woman that God created her to be.”

Why Reach Out To Those In The Sex Industry
“I believe that the church has an irreplaceable role on this planet to reach and serve hurting and broken people,” Dust said. “This ministry is important because the women working in the sex industry are important.  They are God’s beloved daughters and we are called to care about what He cares about.”

She said regardless of whether a woman enters the sex industry by choice, force, fraud or coercion – as in the case of human trafficking – every woman is valuable.

“I would encourage people to educate themselves by reading their stories and allow their hearts to be softened,” Dust said. “Our website, www.IAmATreasure.com has an entire section dedicated to the stories of these women.”

For Dust, this ministry has allowed her to turn her own personal pain into purpose.

“It is an honor to be a part of the work that God is doing in the lives of His daughters,” she said. 

What I Thought
Wow. This is a powerful story. Simple, direct and to the point, Scars And Stilettos: The Transformation Of An Exotic Dancer

From the very beginning, Dust's story drew me in. Painful at times to read, I found her style to be authentic. She said she didn't want tell her story and seem like a martyr. I think she accomplished this and more.

I love what Craig Gross said in the forward. Dust had a choice. She could have made a choice to move on with her life and put her painful past behind her.

Instead she chose to dive back in the the strip club scene (with support of her church) in order to provide life preservers for women and men drowning in the sex industry.

She also told to tell her story. I believe she is right, stories have power - and her story in particular reminds people that God can and will transform painful things from our past into ministry opportunities.

As someone who works with students - I asked Dust what she would tell herself if she could go back in time and talk frankly with her "younger" self.

She said first off, she would tell herself that "love truly doesn't hurt."

But more importantly, Dust said she would be a "safe person" who would show up and be present in her life.

"Keep 'showing up,'" Dust said. "Your time and presence are an invaluable gift.  Love without agenda."

I truly hope that this book serves two purposes: 1) that it reaches women living in the sex industry trenches, providing them with hope. 2) I hope it shows "average churchgoers" why they need to reach out to people living this lifestyle.

I pray God will use Dust's story of hope and redemption in amazing and unexpected ways.

More About The Author
Harmony Dust is founder of Treasures, a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles that reaches out to women in the sex industry to show them they are loved, valued, and  purposed.

Find out more about Treasures, Harmony and  her book at www.IAmATreasure.com  or http://www.ScarsandStilettos.com. Check out Dust's Press Page for magazine articles and videos about her work with women in the sex-trade industry.

Want to read more about Dust? Visit her website www.scarsandstilettos.com.

Online Resources
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
An Autographed Copy From Dust
An Online Excerpt
The Oasis - Harmony Dust's Church
Harmony's Blog

From The Publisher 
Fear of being abandoned keeps nineteen-year-old Harmony Dust trapped in an abusive and cruel relationship. She thinks she has hit bottom-tens of thousands of dollars in debt, struggling to get by, and so controlled by her boyfriend that she doesn't protest when he begins openly sleeping around. Things can't get worse . . . until someone tells her how much money she can make as an exotic dancer. For the next three years, Harmony lives a double life as Monique, a dancer in a fully-nude strip club.

Scars and Stilettos is Harmony's stark, honest, and ultimately hopeful story of how God found her in that dark, noisy place and led her out. She has since married, completed an MA in social welfare, and now leads Treasures, an organization helping women in the sex trade discover their true worth.

"Harmony wrote her story so that you and your friends may get help out of whatever dark tunnel you find yourself in. . . . once you start this book, you will not be able to put it down and you will want to get a copy for every person you know." -Holly Wagner, from the preface


"The thing that blows me away about Harmony’s story is that she showed back up. How easy would it be never to set foot in a strip club ever again? The pain, the memories, the past, were all right there, but she decided that this was not about her, but about the hundreds of women that remained in the clubs." Craig Gross, founder http://xxxchurch.com from the preface.

Join The Blog Tour
Want to see what others think of Scars & Stilettos? Visit the blog tour page for additional information and reviews.

It's A Contest
Kregel Publishers is graciously donating a $50 Amazon.com gift card for the Litfuse Blog Tour Contest! All you have to do to enter is either tweet (see TWEET THIS below) or share the book on Facebook using this link: http://www.litfusegroup.com/Blog-Tours/scars-and-stilettos-blog-tour.html

TWEET THIS: (and be sure to use the hashtag #HarmonyDust to be entered into Amazon.com gift certificate drawing) Scars and Stilettos-story of ex-stripper #HarmonyDust & her work now to reach out to those still in the sex industry. http://ow.ly/1WrGD

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

2 comments:

  1. As a former nude dancer, I am excited to read her book and relate to her story on so many levels. Thank you for this post!

    Christine
    www.poletosoul.com

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