Fresh Girls, and Other Stories, Evelyn Lau’s collection of short stories, centers around young women who seek love and human affection in a netherworld of prostitution and bizarre, alternative sexual lifestyles. Many of the stories’ protagonists live on two or more levels. They often wear a mask during the sex work they perform, but have retained a different identity in which they long for a more conventional life and for loving acceptance.
Lau’s stories are told from the perspective of the young women, who chase after a dream which continues to elude them. The reader is made to share, for example, the sadness of the drug-addicted teenage narrator of the title story. Looking around the massage parlor where she works, she suddenly recognizes that, although many of her friends still look nice in regular clothes and outside their work, they have lost that special youthful freshness after which their clients lust with such depravity.
The astonishing ease with which men and women cross from an arcane subculture of sadomasochism to a mainstream life that is officially unaware and innocent of the other world is described with brilliant sharpness in “The Session” and “Fetish Night.” Alternate identities are taken on quickly, and discarded just as easily, as young women agree to perform strange sexual acts on men who want to live out their secret fantasies and change from a position of power into that of helpless submission....
(The entire section is 433 words.)