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Leaving Dirty Jersey: A Crystal Meth Memoir

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  1,479 Ratings  ·  117 Reviews
With his nickname, Dirty Jersey, tattooed on the inside of his left forearm, James Salant wanted everyone to know he was a tough guy.

At the age of eighteen, after one too many run-ins with the cops for drug possession, he left his upper-middle-class home in Princeton, New Jersey, for a stint at a rehab facility in Riverside, California. Instead of getting clean, he spent

Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 22nd 2008 by Gallery Books (first published 2007)
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Jan 29, 2008 Diane rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
As bad as you can't believe it is. How this got published is beyond me. Take out the F-bombs and you have very little to read. Most of that is repetitive.

Threaten your children with this book. "If you do meth you'll write as badly as this guy!"
Patrick O'Neil
I might be being a bit picky here. Being a dope-fiend memoir elitist and all. Yet, one would think if an author was writing their "tell-all-drug-addict-memoir," they'd at the very least have been a dope fiend longer than it took to get the book published. James Salant ran away from rehab and shot speed for a year, then wrote a book about it. Ok, sure, shooting speed sucks. Hanging out with speed freaks and ex-cons sucks. Endlessly masturbating to internet porn really has to suck. Even just the t ...more
Jul 14, 2012 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really really dug this book. Such a shameless warts and all account of meth addiction. It's a subject that seems over-shadowed by the hipness of heroin memiors, but meth heads make for much better reading, and it's a common story that's yet to be told so well.

The most impressive thing about Leaving Dirty Jersey is its honesty. Unlike a certain un-named "Memior" I'm currently reading,(James Frey), which truly does whiff a little of bullshit.


I dig the way Salant portrays the paranoia
Sep 17, 2007 Meredith rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What I learned from this book is that there are three major compulsive behaviors exhibited by meth addicts: tweaking, rooting and sketching. I also learned that, pathos aside, meth can be as funny as crack. Lastly, I learned that if you are a suburban kid obsessed with recreating yourself a la the thug life and become a hollow and disgusting drug addict, it helps to have two rich parents back in New Jersey willing to cut any manner of check to send you to rehab. This way, you can dry out, get a ...more
Brett Starr
Apr 16, 2010 Brett Starr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bored, tired of reading books with facts and statistics? Yes, so was I.

This book is a great, fun read. The main character Jim (the author James Salant) keeps you on the edge of your seat.

James doesnt waste your time trying to give you statistics on drugs, drug use or even how meth is produced.

This is his story of addiction, from beginning to end. Its not a pretty journey through the countryside, but rather a long walk down a dirty, dangerous back alley.

Meth use is a disgusting, but growing p
Jan 04, 2009 Imogen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not gonna lie, I mostly read this because I like New Jersey (ask me about my tattoo!). It's about a tough guy who moves from New Jersey to California to be tough, which is m y life story too, but ultimately it's the story of a rich kid with rich parents who decides to be a badass on his parents' money, talking about how smart he was for scamming his parents' money, telling stories about how Oh man I w as so fucked up.

I wanted more acknowledgment of the privilege he had, and instead I got a
May 29, 2008 Trish rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-read, memoir
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 16, 2007 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you look at James Salant's author photo on the back of this book, you see a baby-faced kid, admittedly very cute, trying to look tough. Leaving Dirty Jersey is 23-year-old Salant's story of his crippling drug addiction, and his author photo is misleading. All his life, he wanted to be tough and now, with this book, all he wants to do is come clean, in more ways than one. The book is gritty and real, allowing people like me who think "getting fucked up" is drinking a few too many cranberry and ...more
May 16, 2009 Aaron rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drugs
Uninteresting people doing uninteresting things with no clear voice, creativity or point. People float in and out of the story with almost no characterization outside of their direct interations with the main character, with slight exceptions in the author's brother Jon and his "best friend" Wendy. Gross overuse of the word "fuck" and a handful of pandering to "west coast" audiences, though that could be considered a clever nod to the content.

Honestly, just a dull read with passable writing and
Dec 05, 2014 Jennww2ns rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2-meh, non-fiction
Want raw honesty? Try A Piece of Cake.
Want addiction and pain? Try Tweak: Growing Up On Methamphetamines.
Want recovery and redemption? Try America Anonymous: Eight Addicts in Search of a Life.
Basically, read any book besides this.

Although, near the end, Salant realizes that being the tough guy was not cool, he tells his story without that conviction. He comes across as pretentious and naive and seems to brush it all off as a big mistake or a "phase" that he went through.
Maybe writing his story o
Jun 24, 2016 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books on drug use that I have ever read. My knowledge of the meth world in California matches what was written in this book. The shady or the violent people that are always around, the effects of the drug (such as when a person goes 'rooting'), the slang, what tweekers do when they are paranoid. Everything written is exactly as I remember the meth world to be. Ignore the naysayers this is a must-read if you want a real description of what the meth world is like (at least in Cali) ...more
Leeann Horner
Privileged upper-middle class white kid gets into trouble selling drugs. His enabling parents continually bail him out and support his druggie lifestyle. His adventures are not nearly as entertaining or "tough" as he believes. Even when hitting "rock bottom", he appears to lack self-awareness and insight. The book does not demonstrate any true emotional growth and instead, bores the reader with examples of how junkies lie to each other constantly. Repetitious and pointless.
Nov 22, 2008 Jeannie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this book but it was pretty depressing. some parts of the book actually made me sick to my stomach. gritty and hard-hitting yet he almost seemed to be bragging about his horrible life while he was a junkie. I'm not sure he will stay clean, he still seems to be immortalizing this lifestyle. a good read non-the-less.
Domante Stiklakyte
Jul 04, 2013 Domante Stiklakyte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Very addicting. This was the first book that got me back into reading and I am so glad I had come across it!
Oct 11, 2008 Jamie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, adult, nonfiction
Boring and Repetitive
Jan 12, 2017 Tori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Okay, this is a great memoir. Drug memoirs are my favorite kind of book, so of course it's going to get 5 stars and of course it's going to get my classic lines such as "i love how it was written", "it was so crazy but so good", and "this book made me feel all sorts of emotions".

(Potential warning for spoilers but I'm not marking it because I'm too lazy to write the code in and also I don't think it's enough spoilers to actually be called spoilers.)

But it's also gonna differ a bit. This kid went
Emma Voss
Oct 07, 2011 Emma Voss rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Update #1
In my book so far Jimmy, the main character, had gotten in trouble in New Jersey for being high and running around the city wrecklessly. His parents decided to send him to California for rehab and he went to a place called GSL. After he got out of there, he started living with a friend he had made in GSL whose name was Luke in a sober-living home. They got kicked out of there because they were getting high. Luke went to live with his girlfriend and daughter while Jimmy started living w
Eva Leger
This is more of a 2.5 for me. If someone asked me for a recommendation for a book of this nature I'd definitely steer them toward Nic Sheff's Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines and to a lesser extent, We All Fall Down: Living with Addiction.
Salant is just missing some of that crucial 'flow' to his writing. A friend of mine said this and I agree wholeheartedly - Salant seems to be bragging in parts about his past and it's common sense that this isn't conducive to staying clean. I wouldn't be s
Dane Cobain
Apr 25, 2016 Dane Cobain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like ‘drug books’ then you’ll like this book – essentially, it’s the memoir of a guy called James Salant, a former meth addict. Salant has a smooth way of writing which brings his stories and the characters that he met along the way to life, and it’s notable for its unflinching honesty. The author managed to get cleaned up, and so he writes about it with a ruthless self-reflection which highlights his plight and which makes you wonder what you might have done if you were in a similar posi ...more
1st let me start off by saying although I gave this book 4 stars it is for the "story" rather than it being a memoir. Because let's be honest if your that whacked out of your head and haven't slept in 4 or 5 days your NOT gonna remember those kinda details that, months/years later, you can recall and turn into a book. I know I have been around addicts and they can't remember what they did the last 2 hours much less what they did months ago. That is not to say I don't believe the author because I ...more
Kennedy Hites
Nov 03, 2011 Kennedy Hites rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book opens with Jimmy’s first encounters into drug addiction, crime, the justice system, and a self perceived “glamorous thug life” as a high schooler in Princeton New Jersey. Brought up in a middle-class family, the second son of two therapists, he was introduced to heroin at seventeen by his brother Joe. This resulted in a spell in rehab where he met a bunch of ex-convicts, and he soon fell into the thuggish, drifting lifestyle of meth addiction. It took a near death experience with his be ...more
Jenny Georgio-who
This book started off so promising. In the first few pages the writing was captivating and so well written that you felt you were right beside James/Jim/Jimmy while he was being arrested, after that the book just sort of fell flat. Everything was great until Jim got to GSL.

The writing tapered off and the story was repetitive. Here is a basic run down:
get high
get horny
get robbed

After reading this book it really makes me question how people become drug addicts. I don't think I'd enjoy tweak
Matthew Bromley
Oct 04, 2014 Matthew Bromley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was amazed at how quick and easy to read this book was. As I began reading the book I was a little annoyed with the review placed on the front of the book by New York Times Book Review "Salant makes his mark by telling his tale plainly and well". This bothered me because, if I ever wrote something and had it published, I would like to think reviewers would have something a little more colorful to say. As I continued to read the book, however, I began to agree with the review and think of it in ...more
Aug 28, 2007 ellen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in concert with "No Speed Limit" -- I read this first and it gave a pretty harrowing account of the author's meth dependence, and how screwed up his life became for a period of time. I was going to say that this is not your typical story of drug addiction, relapse and ultimate recovery, because the author was from a priviledged background -- but then I realized that people that write books (and get them published) about there journey are more likely than not a part of an affluen ...more
Sep 21, 2008 Allison rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
For me, reading this book was more educational than pleasurable. I wouldn't necessarily call it well-written, as many of the episodes the author recounts seem repetitive, and they don't culminate to any final climax, from what I could tell. The beginning didn't "grab my attention," and I felt that the entire thing left one with little sense of surprise, both during the reading and at the end.

However, I easily recognized the temperament and actions of a good friend of mine in those of the author/
Dec 27, 2008 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Several times while on public transportation I've been reading something gross and get nauseous and feel like passing out but then don't. One part of this book includes a graphic depiction of shooting up in his penis while getting a hand job over the sore spot. Needles bother me but this...Bleh. I was on a bus while reading it and felt really dizzy and sick.
That's totally a digression though. It's a good book, he's now an ex-junky and he writes mostly about crystal meth and heroin and his attem
Sep 12, 2011 Ajabee rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am willing to admit I picked up this book strictly because of the title—as a result I deserved this punishment. Being from New Jersey it is hard to resist a narrative that tramps through familiar haunts of Princeton, but this author took page after page to paint his joyous life as a small-time drug seller and big time drug user in California. The book starts out strong enough with an series of scenes that help connect you to the rebellious narrator. However, the narrator quickly drops the emot ...more
Oct 20, 2008 Hendo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Hendo by: Robyn
I read this one with my students in mind, and while I really liked it, it's completely inappropriate for school--too much adult language and content--even for a book about drug abuse. Story begins w/ a kid in Jersey who--while tripping--is arrested and charged for possession w/ intent to dist. He goes to rehab in Cali, relapses, and the book talks about his year of drug abuse. While it's marketed as a cautionary tale, Salant doesn't do much cautioning--his year on the wild side almost sounds lik ...more
Nov 16, 2011 Meaghan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Meaghan by: my roommate
Drug abuse has never been something I found myself wanting to read about but my roommate recommended this book to me so I figured why not give it a shot. I've never done drugs in my life so I can't begin to understand what people are feeling when they are trying to quit and straighten up. Reading James Salant's memoir allowed me the chance to view the process from addicts eyes.

There were times I found myself not wanted to read anymore because I've just never found drugs or reading about addicts
Robin Salant
Jul 28, 2011 Robin Salant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Teenagers, Parents of drug addictst, drug counselors, memoir-junkies
A drug memoir that -- in laying out about a year of repetitious find-drugs-take-drugs-find-more-drugs, etc., and all the petty scamming and self-denial, the making friends and losing them, the endless tweaking, sketching, highs and lows -- shows us that being a junkie is FAR less glamorous than Jim had hoped it would be.

The book doesn't end with "finding God" or even really "hitting rock bottom," which I liked. It was more that, like being a junkie, rehabbing is pretty damn boring too.

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