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Various Men Who Knew Us as Girlsa novel

Would her life have been better if she’d had sex with her supervisor when she was 23? Hester Smith is a woman who always played life near the sidelines—until she decides to rescue a teenage Mexican prostitute. She’s up against the border sex trade in Southern California that works like a drug cartel, where the smuggled contraband is teenage girls forced to work as prostitutes in undeveloped canyons just outside suburbia. Law enforcement agencies know it happens, as do investigative journalists, yet the illegal sex trade continues to exist. Most people, comfortable in their homes only miles away, express some brand of shock in the moment they hear about it—and then they go on with their lives, assured there’s nothing they can do.

 While she prepares for the rescue, Hester discovers that the man with whom she almost had an affair—her mentor when she was a 23 year-old student teacher—had been simultaneously having a sexual relationship with a 16 year-old student. Hester mines her own memories of the would-be affair and ultimately tracks down the former 16 year-old.  When these two women with a shared scandal in their pasts confront one another, the meeting coincides with the last step necessary to rescue the teenage prostitute Hester has tried to protect. It is only this mayhem that allows Hester to finally take ownership of her decisions and regrets.

 

and

Something Wrong With Her, a companion real-time memoir

SOMETHING WRONG WITH HER is a poignant memoir about a girl who didn’t feel the sexual awakenings she knew she was supposed to feel, and about the boy who loved her nonetheless. Thirty years later Cris went back to find that boy, now a man, only to discover that he’d never stopped yearning for her. Worse, in an attempt to cauterize his feelings for her, he’d sealed himself into an abusive marriage. SOMETHING WRONG WITH HER is an astonishing real-time testimony of a couple’s re-connection, and their candid wrestling with 30-year-old memories, questions and regrets.

 

Cris Mazza is the author of Something Wrong With Her, a hybrid memoir published by Jaded Ibis Press in 2014, a companion piece to Various Men Who Knew Us As Girls. She has authored over a dozen other books, mostly novels and collections of short fiction, including Is It Sexual Harassment Yet? and the PEN?Nelson Algren Award winning How to Leave a Country. A native of Southern California, Mazza now lives in the Midwest and is a professor in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois Chicago.