Tracy Quan

Dear TQ: Letters to Tracy Quan from here, there and everywhere

Re: Your Thanksgiving

I suppose you do what you need to do, but your sad little description of your holiday plans makes me think that you're either really damaged by a real or imaginary past or you're just too precious. The "special" yogurt makes me think it's the latter.

— John

Taking Liberties
Dunno what's up with those wankers who commented on your column about the Statue of Liberty. I think it's fab and I'm right with you on keeping the SoL as a monument to be admired from the outside. The very idea of being stuck in an enclosed stairwell creeps me out...and I *so* don't get the idea that keeping it closed to tourists is a "victory for Al (sic) Quaeda". It's like saying you have the right to touch the Mona Lisa just because it's there.

— Julian

Boys in Babeland
In response to your Fifth Estate comment: "Women outside the sex trade are being sold a bill of goods about how 'empowering' or fun sex work is."

What does power mean anyway? I like your post- feminist stance. It is very fierce, but then again men are the new women in the 21st century lol. As male and female sex workers "they cannot take away our self respect unless we give it to them."

— Laurent

She Who Controls the Past?
I recently read both of your books and I loved them...but I have one nagging question. I was really excited to start the second book because I was dying to know what happened between Allie and Jason, but their relationship wasn't mentioned at all. Would you give me a hint to what might have happened between them? I don't consider myself to be a very imaginative person (I'm a history professor, if that explains anything). But if you would give me a hint, maybe it could start my imagination going.

I'm a professor of African-American history, but I also teach other classes in U.S. history, especially dealing with multi-racial issues. Therefore, I really appreciate your inclusion of multi-racial Trinidadian identity. I spent a month in Trinidad in college studying the carnival mas (hard work, I know)...

— Lauren A.

Dear L.A. in Berkeley,

I'm really glad you picked up on this situation. Allie was flattered by Jason's attention and touched by his friendship. His curiosity was genuine. But...yeah, what's up with that? In the second book, Allie tries to go there again with Jason, Nancy won't let her, and Allie backs off.

Now that Jason is faced with the demands of being a new father, he puts a lot of things on the back burner. He no longer has time to daydream about activist hookers. Reality has taken over. His novel sits in a drawer somewhere. It's kind of cruel, but I want to show how easy it is for Jason to walk away from his tentative ideals, his liberationist flirtation, when he becomes a parent. And how Nancy's his enabler!

Hearts have been broken by guys like Jason, but I am not, by nature, a sourpuss, and neither is Allie. So now she has her hands full with Lucho. However, Lucho brings complications of his own...

As a history prof, you must be fed up with that cliché about the victors writing history. My pathological desire to control the past is all about turning that cliché on its head. Those who learn to write history (control the past) become the victors. No?

— TQ

Nature vs. Nurture
I just read your article about nature worship in Alternet and I wanted to point out something questionable. You say: Had our sex lives never been "medicalized," we would not have gained the freedom to express our sexual desires.

This is only true if what you mean by expression of sexual desire is having sex with many partners. There are countless ways to express sexual desire without endangering your health by promiscuity (which is inherently dangerous because sex is never a risk-free activity and the more partners you have the more at-risk you are.) Taking antibiotics after catching STDs is not an entirely harmless freedom of medicalization, especially for people who repeatedly do so. And the waterways are contaminated with unmetabolized drug runoff.

— Sam

Dear Sam,

Antibiotics should not replace condoms (but they do save lives which might be lost to gonorrhea and other ailments.) Even though I don't need a prescription for a condom, I consider the use of modern condoms to be part of medicalization. The quality of today's latex device surpasses the technology of the earliest condoms. The faithful partner -- quite often a woman -- can be taking risks that she doesn't know about, if she has sex without a condom. Responsible, informed promiscuity is medically sound. Misinformed monogamy is not.

— TQ

Nature vs. God
There is a paradoxical play between concepts of what is and is not nature. The opponents of C-sections (at least some of them) seem to be simultaneously saying that this procedure is not natural and not what God wants. However, when God is introduced, a "supernatural" principle appears, which is above and beyond nature. Nature in its broadest sense is everything that is not supernatural. Therefore, it could be argued that medical technology is supremely natural because it is exclusively concerned with the biological or "natural" world. And *therefore* it can be argued that a C-section is perfectly natural while the opposing view departs from nature with an appeal to the supernatural.

— Charlie

Nature vs. GMO
Are medical professionals advocating c-sections more than they used to? Is it purely a health issue? Are there insidious insurance considerations? What do we make of the case of the Utah woman charged with murder for refusing a c-section?

I certainly agree that nature worship in this country often supplants reasoned argument and intelligent debate. The backlash against GMO comes to mind. It might be good, it might be bad, but I often wonder if some of the drivers of cars with anti-GMO bumper stickers have a real grasp of the issues involved.

— SG

Dear SG,

I agree. If you do a Google on GMO, the first thing you notice is the polarization, which looks a lot like the argument about natural childbirth.

About Utah: I think this "law and order" approach to pregnancy is very wrong. There's an excellent piece by Lynne Paltrow about involuntary c-sections and other perils of being pregnant in America. I don't think anybody should be forced to have a c-section. There are medical reasons to avoid a c-section, just as there are very sound reasons to have one.

— TQ

Inscrutable and Lovely
Today, for the second time in about twenty years, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the sight of a woman whose poised, pointed sexiness and provocative, though impeccable, dress made me pretty sure she was a call girl, and who was so alluring to me that I wanted to interrupt her solitary march and ask her whether she was a working girl. Is a call girl on the job apt to welcome that kind of query from an interested stranger, provided he's presentable and not leering? Or is it considered tacky and just not done? I wanted to ask that woman whether she could give me her card or something. I didn't. Please advise.

— Howard

Dear Howard,

In lieu of advice, I offer these passages from "Spain in Fifty-Ninth Street" by E. B. White:

"That was the whole extent of their meeting;
That was the long and short of their greeting...
And I saw, in the Spanish sunlight dancing,
The modest smile in the backward glancing,
Quick as the passing of summer rain,
Bright as the streets of a town in Spain..."

— TQ

Sunday Chronicle Reader
Good article in the San Francisco Chronicle about prostitutes and the people who care about them. As a former 'ho' I well know the isolation of sexwork and the way we and those closest to us are marginalized.
— Christine Beatty

Another Chronicle Reader
Women who work in the sex industry are heroes to me and deserve respect. I had not been touched by a woman for 10 years when I went to a strip club and spent 6 minutes with Sharon. She made me cry. Her tenderness was amazing to me. She gave me hope. I am interested in helping the cause.
— Richard
Salon Reader — Yikes!
No disrespect on your writing or your chosen profession, but the term 'oriental' is about as descriptive as the word 'nigger' or 'honky'. Sad to see you live in such a white-washed world and your own ethnic identity is little more than a fetish for a bunch of overpaid and undersexed pigs. Have some self-respect!
— Jerry

Diary Question
Just finished reading "Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl" .... My only question when I finished reading was: What ever happened between Nancy and Jason? For that matter, between Allie and Jason? Ah, but I guess that's left up to our imaginations.
— BB

Roxana Really
Just bought your book at the Houston airport and enjoyed it greatly. You would enjoy Roxana by Daniel Defoe (of Robinson Crusoe fame). A little-known book with a heroine similar to yours who is however slightly more versed in financial investments (in amazingly modern fashion).
— RL

Location, Location, Lo...
Do you think I should move to New York? It's something I've been contemplating lately. I've lived in California, and now I live in Atlanta and I know for sure I like city life much more than suburbia. I have a few friends who live there and I love visiting. But I was wondering — as you're a NYC resident and seem to have your wits about you, if you had the choice to live somewhere else would you still choose Manhattan?
— JT

Dear JT,

Unthinkable!! I can't live anywhere else. Maybe when I'm 800 I'll want to live somewhere warmer but... I doubt it. Where else could I exist? Still, it's a demanding city, and it's not for everyone.
— TQ

The R Word
I am a working girl — also an aspiring writer. I also have a boyfriend right now. I can relate to many aspects of your stories especially the double standard that I extend to my boyfriend of a month. I also read your article about marriage. I could completely relate to that as well. Working is certainly a lesson in psychology, my own and that of others. It's almost 3 in the morning — my boyfriend just called. Thank you for sharing your story. It made my Friday evening.
— A Girl Who Can Relate

I couldn't help but wonder if Diary is about you, because it sure as hell sounds like me. Although not a hooker and not living in NY, from the complications of a woman's sexual life, I am the epitome of Nancy. Also, when is the film coming out?
— Susan

Neat, Flash... and Pink
In the American vernacular I guess your new site would be described as "neat" and in the Aussie "flash as a rat with a gold tooth" — i.e. very, very impressive. I particularly like the pink typewriter ... nice.
— Allan

Showing Her Roots
I noticed that Nancy Chan has Trinidian roots. I am curious as to what inspired your decision regarding her background. Although living in Toronto, I am Trinidadian as well and found that to be quite interesting. Let's just say that it gave me (personally) more grounds on which to identify with the character!
— AM

Dear AM,

"Although" living in Toronto? As we all know, Toronto has become a colony of Trinidad so of course anyone writing from TO is 80% likely to be some sort of Trinny. I explored my Caribbean connections here. But to say that this or that inspires a creative decision — here, I have to be very stubborn and insist that we're never quite sure where the monsters of imagination are born. Really!
— TQ

From the East
About your reader who said that Oriental was a racist term: I know at some point people in the United States decided that it would be a racist term, but this hasn't filtered to Asia yet. I know many Asians who are actually from Asia (Thailand and Vietnam) and they use the term to describe themselves. This includes my wife. As far as I can tell, Oriental simply means "from the east," and I'm not sure how it came to be considered a racial epithet in the US.

Of course, the whole concept of Western political correctness doesn't seem to have filtered East either. (I tend to find that refreshing.)

— Paul

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