Kate Holden’s In My Skin (2007) is a vivid and very engaging memoir about heroin addiction, prostitution, and one young woman’s drive to survive.
Growing up as part of an intellectual family, Holden seems to have everything she wants – supportive parents, a good job, great friends, and an arts degree. Like her peers, she dabbles with alcohol and marijuana, but it’s not until she convinces her then boyfriend to let her try heroin one night that she begins a chain reaction of events that lead to heroin dependency, which in turn creates ongoing issues with family and friends, the loss of her job, and, eventually, a life of prostitution.
Holden’s memoir portrays these experiences in vivid detail, drawing the reader in with a captivating narrator’s voice, carefully nuanced prose, and, importantly, sensitive and honest humility. Her story is so involving that, at times, readers feel like they are the drug addict in need of a fix, that they are struggling to survive on the low income of a street urchin and prostitute. Moreover, readers will continually find themselves shaking their heads as Holden continues to dig herself deeper and undertake more humiliating acts to feed her dependency. Yet, they are never enough to turn readers away from caring about her during her struggles.
In parts, some of the details, especially in relation to her prostitution, are excessive and slow the pace. However, they give a good insight into the author’s state of mind at the time and portray the horrifying reality of what some people will do to survive.
In My Skin is an authentic, well written, highly engaging, and hard to put down memoir that takes readers on the author’s emotional journey, and reveals how even the best of us can succumb to a life we are less deserving of. I highly recommended it.