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Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent
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Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  325 ratings  ·  60 reviews
Here is the unforgettable chronicle of a season spent walking the razor-sharp line between painful innocence and the allure of the abyss. Chicken--slang for a young male prostitute--revisits his year of living dangerously, in a narrative of dazzling inventiveness and searing candor.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 1st 2003 by ReganBooks (first published 2002)
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3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  325 ratings  ·  60 reviews

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Petal Eggs
The writing of this book sparkles. It's the only book I've read by a worker in the sex industry that got me inside their heads, made me see the industry, what they did and how they managed to do it and remain both dignified and humble when sex for money is such a taboo. It isn't at all titillating but neither doesn't it shy away from graphic descriptions. What truly lifts the book and marks it out as quite different from others in this genre, is the author's empathy for his clients, his desire t ...more
David Henry Sterry has mad writerly skills and this is certainly penned with a flourish, replete with expertly turned phrases. The book is an often flavorful and occasionally vivid memoir recounting the experiences of a teen boy prostitute in LA. Oddly, it reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird in the sense that the writer is an adult looking back but not letting his adult voice or hindsight judgment color the voice of a naive young man in his journey of discovery about the world. Sterry interweav ...more
Nikki Dylan
Mar 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Clever, raw, funny, and human.

"I couldn’t feel so I tried to touch."

I highlighted that line in my Kindle. Yeah, I know. Sterry brings the thought provoking, comedic, sad, and the gut-wrenching prose throughout his memoir, but that’s the one line that sticks with me. I kept coming back to it. Something about that simple sentence is so complicated, muddled and true. The context is set within his sexual exploration at the age of fifteen, but this line to me sets the stage for the entirety of the b
Bo Winnberg
Mar 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: memoir readers of all kinds
Recommended to Bo by: Karen McCarthy
Wonderful easy read, took me four days to read it.
It was such and easy read,its disturbing and at same time an eye opener for many.
It is great in a way of portraying tragic events somewhat comically.
What makes it special is that its stricvking a cord emotionally, instead of just decribing events Sterry manages to dig deep emotionally and put poetry to his feelings ina clear beautiful way so one just gets it.
Thats what I would say about this book.
ONE gets IT.
Philip Hoffman
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Chicken is an incredible read. The writing itself is great, and the stories Sterry tells, well… they gripped me. Haunted me. I COULD NOT STOP READING. It is as much of a page turner as any of the fiction I normally read. It is constantly entertaining and at times hilarious, but to be transparent this is not a light read. It is downright difficult at other times. Painful even. But it’s fascinating too, and because Sterry keeps it real, I was able to keep going. He doesn’t glorify the sex trade, b ...more
Oct 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Easy to like this man. This book is structured with a back and forth from childhood to contemporaneous in a way I found sometimes too much. I think if the episodes were longer and there was less back and forth, ala Michelle Tea, I would have fived it. And what a story the contemporaneous episodes are.
Jan 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recommended
I decided to read this book after reading Sterry's more recent compilation Hos, Hookers, etc.
I really enjoy his writing style. He uses a lot of metaphors and similes, most of which I found creative and funny.
The book, although it is a continuous stream, could easily be read as short stories. Each chapter builds on the next rather than continuing from the last, if that makes any sense at all.
Some of the stories of him turning tricks are hysterical, some heart-wrenching. It gives an intimate look
Jessica Gruner
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Before I read this book, I kinda assumed all kids who drifted into sex work came from horrible, abusive backgrounds that had destroyed their self-respect forever. Sterry’s tale goes to show that the truth is more complex. In manic prose and wordplay that seems to function as much as a defense mechanism as a form of self-expression, he details a childhood that doesn’t appear all that awful. Except that, once he was 17, his parents didn’t really have time or energy for him. They were more interest ...more
Apr 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
This one was very good read...but the ending left to much unanswered for me. I thought through the entire book this man had been sexually abused by his father, with the way he talked about such things. He had so much anger inside twards people. Now I loved his writing style but the ending seemed very rushed to me. Unfortunatly I will always be wondering why he had all this anger and hur inside him. He never really tells you anything except that his father never really cared to much to be bothere ...more
Feb 05, 2012 rated it liked it
"Well-paced and well-written, but superficial. It raises complex themes but doesn't dwell on or investigate them. Mostly it juxtaposes quaint snapshots of suburban American life against the depravities of the sex industry without doing much more. However, given that it wasn't a work of fiction lends a bit more heft to the prose, as it's harder to moralize one's own life than that of a character."
John Rogers
Oct 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
If you don't want to more than you probably know about oral sex, then you shouldn't read this book. But it would be a pity not to. Sterry is a gifted writer. The book is funny, sometimes excruciatingly so, and that style and humor lies like a cloak over a real person that is smart, sensitive and trying figure out life. It's a story told about a boy in the process of becoming a man in a way that can be touching even through the blue humor.
Dec 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is the first memoir by Sterry. This is his own story of how he was a boy for rent for one year of his teen-age life. It moves quickly and is well done. His sympathy for his "clients" is what makes this less of a horror tale and more of a personal tale of how he and many other teen survive what life throws at them.
May 20, 2008 rated it liked it
Very bizarre exploits of a seventeen year-old living in Los Angeles. The book was written in a very interesting manner - but I just can't believe some of the "adventures" he had! A lot of it was extremely disturbing, but so disturbing that I couldn't put the book down! Fast read.
Adam Dunn
Oct 25, 2018 rated it liked it
I didn't know chickens could be straight, I thought it was a gay thing. So when I started reading this I thought the author was gay. Chapter one did not disabuse me of this idea.
Turns out he's straight and has a couple good stories to tell. The book borrows heavily on City of Night with many run together words and sexmoney. The parts about his childhood are less relevant to the overall story and too frequent.
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous! After reading this memoir, I was dumb founded. This life actually exists...It makes you think, "what if this had happened to me?" The writing is so good, you'll feel like you're in on the action, which could be quite disturbing.....

Thanks to David for sharing his fascinating early life,
Cori R.
Aug 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Creative language, interesting subject, and still not quite wonderful. I finished the book feeling generally unaffected and glad to have finished a book. It was Fine.
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, used-to-own
I've been reading a lot of books involving sex recently, for some reason. Not the "How To…" kind of books, with hints and tips and pictures, but (supposedly) real life stories of people and their sex lives. These have varied from chick lit accounts of attempts to have sex, in the case of Suzanne Schlossberg's "1001 Nights Without Sex" to, rather more worrying, the (supposedly) true account of one woman's life as a London Call Girl in Belle De Jour's "Intimate Adventures…"

I guess that with a rece
The story of being a chicken is one for anyone who thinks their life is bad should read. No other job around will make you feel as worthless as being a chicken or whore.

The story of David is one about a boy who grew up in a household where his family went on vacations, traveled America and saw the great sites. Although there were moments of tension and displeasure, he still grew up in a home where there was love and attention from time to time. He attended (many) schools and had sisters and a br
Aug 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: autobiographies
I was recommended this book without any hint to its content and thus I was in for a surprise. I might have never given it a shot and at the beginning I was rather sceptically but I really grew to appreciate the book the further I read.

So let's see what we've got. For a book being about a lot of (kinky) sex, you'd be hard pressed to find anything erotic about it which I appreciate. Reading about the various acts makes you uncomfortable but in a good way. You shouldn't truly enjoy this but rather
Oct 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways-won
I received this book from Goodreads First Reads. Thanks!

Chicken is a slice of sparkling, sizzling, up-and-down nightmare of an adventure. Perhaps the best thing about it is that it is very well told. I like that there is a common childhood, some usual 17-year-old hormones pumping, and nothing really too drastic, other than the first encounter the author finds himself in when he goes to Hollywood for college. It is, I do agree, a bit unbelievable that with $27 in his pocket, and a relatively norm
Sonia Focke
Sep 26, 2016 rated it liked it
I have trouble with memoirs. You can't bitch about poor characterisation or that the plot wasn't gripping. You have to analyze completely differently from a novel.
Chicken was fascinating. I had no idea - or rather, I was vaguely aware that a demi-monde of call-girls and call-boys existed. And it was horrifying to see just how fast you can slip into it.
The book alternates between scenes of the author as a call-boy and his emotional journey there and scenes of his childhood. I didn't always see th
Mike Adams
Feb 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
Having read many better books about sexuality, prostitution and similar topics, I found Sterry's 'memoir' to be sad and draining.

Despite not blaming his parents for his downfall, Sterry uses a pretentious style of jumping from banal family scenes ("My brother wouldn't eat his peas! How scarring!") to sex work scenes, forcing an inane parallel where there isn't one. It's a trite device that's overdone.

He also seems to cherry-pick the strangest and most grotesque of sexual clients with a few 'spir
Jan 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
This is the story of a 17 year old boy who finds himself in Hollywood, completely broke and without family or friends. Almost immediately he turns to prostitution to support himself while attending Immaculate Heart College. He's not a street walker, but a male call-girl.

The art of the memoir is to make the story credible, interesting and articulate. In the end, I don't care whether the story is true or false. In most cases, it's all about entertainment value. Thus I was probably in the minority
Jan 07, 2015 rated it liked it
A rather touching, sad, & hilarious story of a young boy who becomes a "chicken", slang term for a teenager who has sex for money. He doesn't mean to become a "chicken", but he has parents who have divorced, his mother has become a Lesbian, his father just really doesn't care & he is pretty much on his own.

The first night in Hollywood, he gets abused & the next day, he is so hungry, he ends up in a dumpster behind a fried chicken place, finding a box with plenty of thrown out chick
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
I received this book from First Reads. Many thanks - please send more!

This is hardly great literature, but it is a fast and entertaining read. If you can get past sentences like, "As my dad mows the yard of my head, the grip of his vice [sic] tightens around my temples, and I absorb it into me like a new computer with an empty hard drive, his fingers plugged into the USB ports on either side of my head, filling me with an angry silent virus," then you'll probably survive it.

If this is truly a m
Bonnie Jean Feldkamp
Apr 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
It doesn’t seem right to devour a book in a single day when it took fifteen years to write, but devour it I did. This book will speak to anyone who has battled shame, blamed themselves for their own abandonment, or didn’t feel worthy of a better life. When you’re at the “bottom of the rock” and surrounded with bottom feeders there’s nonjudgemental camaraderie that can consume you. But through it, you see David’s struggle for normalcy, his compassion for his clients, and his not-yet developed tru ...more
Apr 04, 2014 rated it liked it
A young man wearing "blue nothugging elephantbells" comes of age in Hollywood. He is also a prostitute. in this most lighthearted look at childhood prostitution, the main character tells tales of chickenhood interspersed with stories of his childhood and occasional thoughts of true love. He is physically (and we're lead to imagine metaphorically) hungry. Day-old birthday cake is a metaphor for whatever is missing, but whatever that is isn't as important as party after party and trick after trick ...more
Sierra Bailey
Dec 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
About a young man who prostitutes himself out to women for a few months of his life. Not in a “let me do this for a story” situation, but because that was where his life led him. It’s biographical and heart wrenching. The author states in the beginning that it took him many, many years to be able to look back on that time and process it to write about, but that it needed to be done. This was a great book.
George Ilsley
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Sterry has a way with the manipulation of words and the narrative is well-paced. Childhood scenes intersect with his rent-boy escapades. He also does not shrink from detailing how damaging the sex-for-sale scene is to his teenage pysche. When I picked up this book, I did not realize that women would purchase sex from a 17 year old boy.

This edition was a bit sloppy. A lot of paragraph indents were missing, and two paragraphs seemed to have been in the wrong order.
Melanie Neale
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Almost finished this on the plane home from NYC yesterday and am just blown away by it. I love the pace and structure--two things that are oh-so-hard to get right in a memoir. And the material, of course, is great. But I think I'd like this book and David's sense of humor even if it was about something boring.
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David Henry Sterry

David Henry Sterry is an author, performer, educator, activist, and a man who hasn’t worn matching socks in 20 years. David is the author of 11 books, the first of which was published in 2001. Prior to becoming an author, David was a professional actor and screenwriter.

The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published (aka: Putting Your Passion into Print) (Workman, 2005). Base