reviews & recommendations

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Hos, Hookers, Callgirls and Rentboys (SoftSkull, July 2009)

Tiger Beatdown : Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Lady Business Book Review

Still, if the anthology doesn’t offend you at one point or another, it’s probably not doing its job. And that is absolutely fine, considering that it contains so much great writing.Jodi Sh. Doff, in “Lele,” shows that she can get a whole world – the world of “the pre-Disney Times Square topless business” – across in a few pages, or even a few sentences: a stripper is stabbed by her husband, while she dances; the bartender wipes blood off the bottles and keeps serving.

The common allegation against radical feminists is that they cast all sex workers as victims, regardless of what sex workers themselves say about that; the common allegation against sex-positive feminists is that they insist on seeing everything in terms of sunshine and sparkles and empowerment, even when the facts are brutal. This book is what it is – and it is excellent – because it explicitly rejects party lines.

New York Times : Sunday Book Review cover : Sunday, August 23, 2009
Meet, Pay, Love / By Toni Bentley

“Lele,” a piece by Jodi Sh. Doff, who “grew up in the suburbs as someone else entirely,” recalls Henry Miller’s in-your-face exposition. She tells of a night at Diamond Lil’s on Canal Street, where “Viva’s sitting onstage, legs spread wide.” While her customer is buried and busy, she holds a cigarette in one hand, a drink in the other, and chitchats with a girlfriend about another girlfriend. “Every two minutes or so Viva taps him on the head and he hands her a 20 from a stack of bills he’s holding, never looking up.” We see in this wonderful set piece the whole money/sex connection enacted with raw charm and an immediacy that reaches far beyond this strip club, as the man’s stack of 20s, one by one, becomes hers. Multitasking Viva holds them “folded lengthwise in her cigarette hand.”

Chicago Now : Saturday, August 15, 2009
Tale of two cities: Sex Worker Literati / By Anna Pulley

The sex industry is often glamorized (like the new HBO series “Hung”) or villainized (by many). Rarely is there any in-between on what the sex industry actually looks like, so it was fascinating to see the scope of performances [at Sex Worker Literati, a new reading and performance series hosted on the first Thursday of the month in New York City’s SoHo district], the wildly different experiences and the inspirational messages that sprang forth from each of the performers….The humorous requests and political gripes were tempered by Jodi Sh. Doff, who read a beautiful, heart-breaking piece about a 15-year-old stripper, once vibrant and innocent, claimed by what she referred to as “the machine” – the underworld of drugs, sex and violence in the 80s, where one’s own survival outweighed all else.

New York Press Review : Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The Happy Hook Book /Sex workers spill the beans in smart new anthology / By Gerry Visco

At a packed house at Happy Ending, former stripper and prostitute Jodi Sh. Doff, reminds us that she worked during an era when the term “sex worker” hadn’t yet been invented. Her writing is hardboiled; Diamond Lil’s on Canal Street “stinks of stale beer, cheap whisky, smoke and cunt.” Doff recounts the tragedy of the brutal murder of Lele, a beautiful young stripper she worked with at a topless bar in “the Deuce,” as 42nd Street used to be known pre-Disney. It was an abandoned, litter-choked lot, full of “dog shit, broken bottles, neon, used condoms, freaks, vermin, predators.” Ah, the good old days.

Bearing Life : Women’s Writings on Childlessness (Feminist Press, 2000)

Kirkus Reviews, 2000

Over 50 women contribute to this engaging collection of essays, fiction, and poetry exploring childlessness. American Book Review editor Ratner (The Lion’s Share, 1991, etc.) proposes to discuss and legitimize alternatives to motherhood through the work of outstanding female writers. While the expected topics of abortion and infertility are central here, dozens of less-discussed scenarios of choice and circumstance are explored as well. In Jodi Sh. Doff’sTie Me Up, Tie Me Off” a young woman, afraid she has inherited her father’s abusive tendencies, chooses hysterectomy. …The collection does not want for depth or imagination, and its sprawling content helps shape a topic defined in name only by absence. An intricate and important anthology, ultimately using childlessness to develop a study of art, female identity, and self-understanding.





if my life had a soundtrack

I heard this one day, driving in my car, listing to WFUV, and I wanted to hear it again, and again, and again. And then I realized, although Greg Brown had never heard of me, and although that moment was the first time I’d heard of him, he’d written the theme song to my life. This is more Greg Brown loveliness to be found…

Jodi Sh. Doff is a New York-based writer, editor, and photographer. Her work frequently includes autobiographical elements of drug-use, alcoholism, and the strip clubs and nightlife of New York City’s Times Square. As part of the harm-reduction/street-outreach movement, she educated and advocated for active addicts and street prostitutes, while working towards the decriminalization of prostitution.  Chicago Now declared her stories about “the underworld of drugs, sex and violence in the 80s” to be “heartbreaking” and the New York Times Book Review compared her prose to that of Henry Miller.

Her stories have appeared in O, the Oprah Magazine; drafthorse literary journal, The Fix, xoJane, Penthouse, Playgirl, Cosmopolitan, and Bust Magazine, and have been anthologized alongside Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates in the anthology Bearing Life–Women’s Writings On Childlessness.  Other anthologies include Best American Erotica; The Bust Guide To A New Girl Order; the awkwardly titled Hos, Hookers, Callgirls & Rentboys and its equally awkwardly titled sequel, Johns, Marks, Tricks & Chickenhawks.

She was a Tin House Summer 2016 Workshop participant; made regular appearances as part of the Sex Worker Literati Reading Series; appeared back on stage, albeit fully-clothed, in New York’s first Sex Worker Cabaret at the infamous Slipper Room; been a featured guest on Sex and Politics (Brooklyn College radio); the KGB Radio Hour with Ratso Sloman and Mark Jacobson; In Bed with Susie Bright (; Minx on, and was profiledas alter-ego Scarlett Feverby author Lily Burana in her book, Strip City. 

She has studied with the late Spalding Gray, Virginia Woolf scholar Louise DeSalvo, playwright Gretchen Cryer, author and Rumpus founder Stephen Elliott, and graduated summa cum laude from Hunter College with a B.A. in English in one hand and a Phi Beta Kappa key in the other. Jodi has been a mentor with the PEN America Prison Writing Program, and was awarded an M.F.A in Creative Writing from Lesley University where she currently advises a graduate seminar in the art of memoir.

Her memoir is currently seeking representation.

NYC 1975: So, a nice Jewish girl walks into a topless bar—152 cases of vodka, 147 men, 10 years, 2 dead bodies & 1 broken heart later, she walks out.  

WHAT I DID FOR LOVE  looks at the lies we tell ourselves in order to be in the world–a coming-of-age story about the search for truth, love, and family in the go-go bars of Times Square at the height of its bottom, the 70s and 80s. Sometimes, the outsider subculture of Times Square would provide the community and safety I craved. Sometimes, dissociation, denial, and vodka were all I needed to get through a life where I was concurrently visible & invisible, singular & replaceable.