Author Insists It's Hard to Stay Sexless in the City
- 2008 15 Apr
Author: Anna Broadway (pseudonym)
Title: Sexless in the City: A Memoir of Reluctant Chastity
Publisher: Galilee Trade/Random House
Just how hard is it for a woman to stay sexually pure, year after year, while searching for a husband? Very hard, insists “Anna Broadway”—especially if you live in New York City. As a result, this 20-something author began blogging about her experiences three years ago. Now, she’s transformed them into a memoir.
Like many missionary children, Broadway questioned her faith before finally committing her life to Christ as a teen. She also struggled with her identity, her weight and a host of insecurities. We don’t ever learn the source of these issues, but what is clear is that Broadway didn’t have many dates or love interests. Until she moved to “the city that never sleeps,” that is, right after college. There, she discovered that grandma was right: most men only do want one thing. But to her credit—and the immense frustration of her suitors, which she dubs with names like “Harvard Lickwit,” “Hippie the Groper,” “Ad Weasel” and “5 Percent Man”—Broadway resists them all.
Unlike autobiographies, memoirs focus on a specific period in someone’s life. They are a slice of time, interpreted by the one who experienced it, and their recent popularity has been boosted by authors like Augusten Burroughs (Running with Scissors) and James Frey (A Million Little Pieces). Because Internet bloggers have a built-in audience, publishers have been recruiting them to join the ranks.
The problem is that blogging and memoir writing are wholly different genres. Blogging is essentially a cleaned-up stream of consciousness. Memoirs, on the other hand, are as close to fiction as you can get, without actually crossing that line (Frey did cross it, infamously). As a result, the success of a memoir relies almost exclusively on the quality of it prose. Unfortunately, Broadway’s Sexless in the City doesn't live up to the challenge.
Her biggest mistake is violating the first writing commandment: “Show, don’t tell.” Throughout her book, Broadway refuses to describe situations; she just recounts them. She tells us what people did—but not how they did them. She tells us what was said—but not how it was said. She even names her own emotions. She eschews detail, employs almost no metaphors or similes and fails to develop her characters (who all remain anonymous as well). We don’t even really get to know her. Essentially, instead of escorting us into her world, Broadway tells us about it, much like someone might recount the plot of a movie, instead of inserting a DVD and showing us the trailer.
She opted to use a pseudonym, she says, to protect her parents from “embarrassment.” At first glance, this is confusing. Why would their daughter’s chastity become an embarrassment for Christian parents? After delving into the memoir, however, it soon becomes clear why Broadway chose this route. Although she does manage to keep her virginity, she’s no saint. While in college, for example, she regularly goes on dates with her father’s wealthy friend—just so he’ll buy her presents. She calls him her “Sugar Daddy” and accepts not only dinner but also cash and luxury items.
The good news is that Broadway does stay faithful, and she doesn’t spin her story into a sermon, which many Christians feel they must. She simply shares her experiences on this oh-so-rocky road, along with her hard-won sexual success—no small feat. Unfortunately, she just doesn’t do so in a way that keeps us engaged.
**This review first posted on April 15, 2008.