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In My Skin: A Memoir

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  4,323 ratings  ·  339 reviews
Called "Quite simply in a class of its own . . . the work of a stunningly talented writer who both graces and surpasses her material" (Guardian), this is the frank, harrowing, and true story of one young woman's descent into heroin addiction and prostitution and the long, arduous struggle to redeem her life that made her stronger. A shy, bookish college graduate from a sol ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 10th 2007 by Arcade Publishing (first published August 29th 2005)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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 ·  4,323 ratings  ·  339 reviews

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There aren't many books by middle-class, highly-literate university graduates on being drug-addicted streetwalkers, this may be unique.

The author becomes addicted to heroin by accident, just trying it and loving it. She eventually descends through all the levels of hell to being thrown out of her home and walking the streets to sell sex enough to get money for drugs.

She describes all this in a dispassionate voice, but an involved one all the same. She doesn't beg for for our sympathy at her pli
Jan 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Opening Line: “What do I remember about being a prostitute?”

In My Skin is the harrowing true story of Kate Holden; an average, middle class university girl from the Melbourne (Australia) suburbs who on a whim decides to give heroin a try. We then follow Kate on a five year journey into hell as she slides into the horrors of addiction and then out of desperation prostitution to fund her growing habit.

This is a candid, gripping, graphic and well written story, although not entirely what I was ex
Update 2016: Again, I've just been reminded of this, one of my all-time favourite books, which I still don't have a copy of. But I'm also reminded that I'd like to add a link to another favourite, also Aussie, also well-written and also not for the faint-hearted, Candy by Luke Davies. And as I recall, both take place in and around Melbourne, but I'll have to check that.

- - - - - Original review
This one has been a favourite since I read it years ago, and I've given my copy away. I wasn't writing
Sequoia Redd
Jun 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Ever pick up a book that happens to be exactly where you're at? Like literally where you're at?
In My Skin is a memoir written by university graduate, Kate Holden, about heroin addiction and sex work in Melbourne, Australia. Kate started working on the streets of St. Kilda and then moves onto the legal brothel system to support her habit.
I picked up my copy in a bookstore somewhere in Melbourne and could not put it down and then realized that she worked in the same brothel that I was working in.
Mar 24, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 11, 2009 rated it liked it
Story of a middle class Australian girl who gets addicted to heroin and turns to legal prostitution. It was really interesting to see what drug addiction is like in a country where they have social services (as opposed to the US). She had a lot more resources at her disposal. Of course it still took her a long time to quit for all the garden variety reasons.

As far as the prostitution part, she tries to play the Carol Queen angle, i.e. "prostitution empowers women rather than exploits them." I h
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
The only thing that separates this from all the other sex-worker memoirs is that Holden is an ok writer, whereas the others tend to hope they'll sell books based on serious shock factor. Other than that, this book was one big vanity indulgence. It's unbelievable how conceited this woman is. She's so proud of everything about herself, she's even proud to begin taking heroin, proud to have wandered the St Kilda streets every night giving blowjobs to unprotected penises of cab drivers. She finds he ...more
Eva Leger
Jul 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: recovering addicts, memoir readers
Recommended to Eva by: bookmooch
This was hard to get into for me a few times in the beginning but it's an awesome book. It's about a woman who led a fairly charmed life up until she started using heroin and became addicted. She's very detailed which is one of the things I like about this book and she explains heroin addiction very well, the ins and outs, the whole experience. She eventually becomes a prostitute/call girl and her life goes progressively downhill. Her family is there for her, along with more friends than most ad ...more
Addicted to Books
5 beautiful unapologetic about her past- accept life in all its different kinds of glory- stars

This was a very different read! Wow Kate Holden, I am really impressed with your writing and the prose was sometimes hauntingly beautiful.

I love reading memoirs and I have read all kinds of memoirs but I have only reviewed the few I like on GR.

Kate Holden is not holding back nor does she feel she needs to add in ugly stuff empowering the book so that the reader can feel pseudo sorry for her. Nor did
This was an interesting read - to hear the thoughts of a habitual heroin user, and prostitute. I am not convinced the author is a particularly likeable person, as she comes across as having a high opinion of herself, despite the lows she reached. This isn't however a book looking for pity, and tried to give an understanding of her decisions, although for me it stops short of providing that. I would even go so far as to say she shows a lot of pride in her decisions, and pride in performing her jo ...more
Sep 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: research, leisure
Facilis descensus Averno … sed revocare … hoc opus, hic labor est.

To descend into hell is easy. But to return — what work, what labor it is! — Virgil

Holden spirals the reader into the bleak darkness of her heroin-addicted world. Introduced to the drug by her older boyfriend, James, who takes her beyond marijuana trips to needle-penetrating heroin, Holden discovers quickly the heroin-infused realm that she desperately wishes to visit more and more frequently. “Heroin was a lure, a security, a de
Sep 10, 2007 rated it it was ok
In My Skin is Kate Holden's memoir of her days as a heroin addict and prostitute in Australia. I enjoy memoirs, and I enjoyed reading this one as well. There were a few things that bothered me a bit, though.

First, Holden just glosses over her recovery. Recovered addicts who write about their experiences often dwell too long on their road to sobriety rather than sharing their experiences as an addict, but I felt Holden should have gone a little deeper in describing her healing process. This could
Nov 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended to me as a reasonably accurate take on sex-work in Australia. I've heard of the book before, but had little interest in the dramatic-miserable-memoir genre it seemed to belong to. it has been winking at me on the reader for a while, and got a guernsey during some bouts if insomnia this week.

There was enough dramatic-miserable-memoir, or at least pretty repetitive stories about sex, to make me glad it wasn't longer. But there were two things I hadn't expected.

Firstly, th
An unflinching, unsentimental and clear-eyed memoir of a shy, bookish, awkward, middle class university graduate's descent into heroin addiction and sex work.

While the vignettes are unrelenting, the writing is uniformly sublime.

On the "romantic ideal" of heroin (at p. 17): "A black hole, edged with a halo of glamour, radiating transgression."

On her long-suffering family (at p. 59): "Their care was the rope around my neck and the thin thread to which I clung. Without my family I would have nothi
Stephanie Kratzmann
Aug 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
Kate Holden presents a memoir of life as a heroin addict and prostitute in Australia. I love memoirs, and this one was no exception.

I have to admit that I would have liked to have heard more about how her life came together in the end and how the process "finally worked" for her. After going in and out of rehab so many times what made the last trip work?

It shows that it can only take one moment in our lives to change the path. The book identified how sinking further down into an abyss is much e
Feb 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
So, post-The Heroin Diaries, I've been on this kick of memoirs by ex-heroin users. Dark, I know, but that's OCD for you. Anyway...I have the feeling that Kate Holden is Australia's James Frey. Things just didn't sound real or true. Maybe they were, and you know, good for her for her accomplishments, but I've known chronic heroin users, and they don't have two little bumps in the crooks of their elbows after five years of doing the drug, and they're not proud of getting paid for sex in order to s ...more
Nov 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
For a subject that could have been so intriguing, I found this quite boring.
I feel terrible saying that about a biography, it's not intended to be a judgement of her life - just of this book. I didn't feel engaged by it very much, and don't for a minute believe that you take yourself overseas and suddenly you're not an addict or a prostitute anymore.
10 pages out of nearly 300 doesn't seem enough to beat a 5 year addiction. If anything I felt like it's quite an easy thing to deal with, and workin
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
I picked up this book because I've had people close to me die from heroin and I wanted to get perspective on why and how people become an addict and what their life is like while being an addict. The author of this book is obviously a talented writer, although after awhile her somewhat bloated prose got kind of annoying and she seemed to be trying to show off her intelligence instead of telling her story. The beginning did have promise and there were some interesting page-turning parts.

I would s
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Judging by the reviews on this site, most people were either hating or loving this book. As for me.... I was underwhelmed, bordering on dislike.
The prostitution parts were interesting but the parts about her heroin addiction swayed from maddening to tedious. And to think she put herself and her family through it all because, basically, she chose her friends and boyfriend, badly, and wanted to fit in with them.
Other readers have commented on her vanity and inflated ego, and I picked up on it thr
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
Sick of this subject matter. There are plenty of biographies out about prostitution now, (check my read list) and this book is no better or worse than any of the others.
My main complaint about this book is that in the first chapter she alludes to a lavish life provided for by her work. However this never happens as she is always supporting a drug habit. I was hoping that eventually she would kick the heroin (which she does), but also triumph over the material world. She ends up going to europe
Reading Kate Holden’s In My Skin and The Romantic together is a little unsettling. It almost feels as though a third part in a trilogy is missing: the story where the protagonist finds peace. The character arc from one book to another is quite powerful, taking Holden through a series of major changes: some terrifying and some quite wonderful. Both books are confronting in different ways. In My Skin charts Holden’s experiences of heroin addiction and working in the sex industry. It’s visceral and ...more
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, memoirs
Interesting, well-written memoir. The author writes succinctly and matter-of-factly of her experiences becoming addicted to heroin and working as a prostitute, first on the street and later in brothels.

"Heroin is like wading into the sea. The first fizz of water at your ankles is delicious, shocking. You're aware of every cold pulse of water at your skin. You wade further; your temperature accommodates; you walk more slowly. The water is still shallow, though the bottom slopes. You're delighted
Kim Hamilton
Tough subject matter. An Australian college graduate becomes addicted to heroin and then to pay for her habit becomes a prostitute — first on the streets, then in a brothel. Was interested in learning how a good girl fell into this world and most importantly, how she got herself out. The book did not deliver as WAY too much time was dedicated to her life as a prostitute. Her recovery was very glossed over and undefined. IMO the book was written too soon after recovery to know if she stuck with i ...more
Lisa Jewell
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure I'd finish In My Skin. Reading about addiction, especially to hard drugs is something I struggle with. I'm so aware of how easily a person can be caught up using. I did read on and I'm so thankful that I did. The writing alone is worth the read. I am in awe of Kate Holden but mostly I'm in awe of her family. I want to reach out and hug them all. I've lived in St Kilda for more than twenty years. I live between the junkies - sex workers and the rich and blind, and then everything in ...more
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography, addiction
Holden is a great writer: the monotony and power of her addiction is well documented. I also appreciate that she describes how her parents’ learned to set and maintain very difficult boundaries with their daughter while she was in active addiction. The disease of addiction affects the entire family, but I don’t often see the (healthy) coping skills of family members discussed in recovery narratives. It seemed, though, that Holden glossed over her actual recovery. I wanted more self-reflection or ...more
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: australian
I am not sure why I read this book as this story had been done to death; the fall into drugs and then eventually sex work. The lying, the stealing, the obsession, the hold drugs have over someone. It’s worthwhile to understand (particular for family and friends of drug addicts), but ultimately it is a selfish and boring story. Too bad Kate didn’t watch Christiane F when she was a teenager like I did, it might have taught her the vile reality of the drug world and scared her enough not to try. 🤔
Robert Krones
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
A memoir of a young author, who has lived another life, needing to go through a lot to find the power to distance herself from her addiction, which caused all her trouble, tumbling down .... The language is at times very detailed, almost phonographic and I wondered “Did she need to write so drastic?” But I guess: She had to ....
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Devastatingly real. An honest, exquisite account of a life lived on the edge.
Daniel Morrissey
The book was more about prostitution than addiction. It was OK but nothing special.
Mar 18, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading from Kate's very unique worldview, and I was amazed by her ability to articulate her experiences with such brutal honesty, but also grace. What I wanted more of was her recovery and healing, but found most of her story told of her addiction and struggle. Either way, still an inspiring story of a very strong woman.
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Play Book Tag: In my skin, a memoir | Kate Holden | 3.5 stars 2 15 Dec 14, 2018 03:24AM  

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Kate Holden was born in Melbourne in 1972. She completed an Honours degree in classics and literature at the University of Melbourne and a graduate diploma in professional writing and editing. 'In My Skin: A Memoir' is her first book.

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