Book Review: Call Me Sasha

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Author: Geena Leigh
ISBN: 978-1-74331-886-7
RRP: $29.99

Call Me Sasha is the first book penned by Geena Leigh, an inspirational survivor with an often heart-breaking tale to tell. I am usually not one for non-fiction or memoirs, generally I keep my reading life firmly in the fictional realm. I like the stories to be realistic but I don’t like to think that these things actually happened, especially stories like Geena’s. There was so much that made my heart break for this strong willed survivor because I knew that these things actually happened to her.

Geena Leigh shares her life with us, from the abusive family life she endured as a child right through all her lowest points as well as her determination to make changes. Growing up Geena moved around a lot, often moving between Australia and New Zealand and always leaving behind all her friends; meaning she has to start again as the new kid and make new friends. This is something that you often hear about with children of military personnel but that seemed to be in 3-4 year cycles, Geena was moving almost every year with her father getting different positions in radio.

The thing with memoirs is that this heartbreakingly emotional piece of literature is someone’s life, all the traumatic memories and experiences of the past being exhumed from the dark places in the mind so as a reader we are looking back through the eyes of the author, who is relating the experiences from a new place often many years in the future, which means we too see it as a memory rather than as it happens and it is coloured by the experiences and knowledge gained since that time.

Geena suffers abuse from a young age, in basically all forms a child can be abused, and the saddest part of the early stages of this story for me is the not knowing any different so not realising that it shouldn’t be happening. The first time she tried to speak to her friends about the physical abuse the three girls ended up swapping stories and all showing off their bruises which didn’t help any of them to realise that they shouldn’t have to endure this.

call me sasha

She is just 15 when she finds herself homeless and unable to finish high school, spending months sleeping on park benches and doing the rounds of shelters until she discovers a way to get off the streets. A string of halfway houses, a return to high school and a job at KFC see her through another couple of years until at 18 she was feeling trapped in an abusive relationship and paid a visit to her mother which resulted in an interesting conversation with another woman.

Prostitution is often glamourised, and I’m not just talking Pretty Woman here. In recent years there was a Pay TV series called Satisfaction set in a brothel that showed the double life and often you hear about work in a brothel being not so bad, it’s controlled, it’s safe and as is said to Geena in the conversation that started her on that path – the men usually don’t even want sex. Whether you are working the streets, exclusively working in a brothel or brothel based but doing call-outs this is not a glamorous job and Geena pulls no punches when she tells us this. She takes us inside her life as a call girl, what’s involved and the toll it takes on you, the things you need to learn and the things you learn to avoid. It isn’t all about what can happen to your body but also what it can do to your sense of self. She also takes a candid look at the sense of validation it gave her, the sense of worth that came of knowing men would pay for her body.

For decades Geena works on and off at The Club, she travels and she works in different Australian cities and there are times that she removes herself from the life completely but there is a certain security in the business that means she doesn’t have to fear being without money. Alongside the work as a call girl is often the lifestyle – the drink, the drugs, the partying and the disconnection from regular life. I must add here that this isn’t always the case, Geena mentions girls she worked with over the years who worked during the day and lived a regular every day life outside of The Club with husband, children and the whole nine yards. That scenario is not one that ever happened for Geena though, she embraced the party life, the drink and the drugs to escape the reality of how she earned her living.

There are many moments that my heart broke for Geena and the situations she found herself in. The hard times taught her that she could survive until she developed the strength to make changes. She went on to complete a double university degree, she kicked her habits one at a time and she fought to build the life for herself that she dreamed of and she earned it the hard way.

Often confronting and not for the faint of heart Call Me Sasha is an inspirational, and heart breaking, look at one woman’s journey through abuse, sex, drugs and addiction to a healthy and committed life in the career of her dreams. There is mention in the about the author section of a new book that Geena is already working on and I look forward to reading her future projects. I also couldn’t close this review without saying Congratulations Geena Leigh on coming through such a tumultuous life to find love and happiness.

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