As celebrity memoirs go, this one is fully par for the course. Rock writer Paul Morley has shaped Grace Jones’s life stories into somewhat of a narrative, but it still has a tendency to ramble back and forth over time, likely from hours and hours of conversation that did just that. Her stories are fascinating, no doubt, even more so if you have any interest in the Studio 54 era and reading about people doing tons of drugs.
The book opens with Jones’ troubled upbringing, she and her siblings are left with their grandmother and their abusive, strictly religious step-grandfather in Jamaica while their parents move to the US to establish themselves before bringing their children over, having no idea how they are being cared for back in Jamaica. By the time they ﬁnally send for the kids, Jones is in her teens. Though she has long planned to go to school to become a teacher, she instead breaks entirely from her childhood by living the craziest, most extravagant life possible. Before moving to Paris to expand her modeling work she takes LSD, arriving in Luxembourg still tripping while wearing her “army outﬁt” of military cargo pants and a tank top paired with a cream wool cape, and tries to hitchhike to Paris on the wrong side of the road before someone takes pity on her and puts her on a train.
Yet it’s not all crazy stories. Jones writes about the disco and club scene and how AIDs ravaged her community. Also after staying away from Jamaica for many years, she eventually returns to visit and her aunt sends her on a trip across the island, prompting a rediscovery of her home country told in evocative expanses. Eventually the book devolves into all the ways current pop stars have ripped oﬀ all her ideas, including one person she refers to with a pseudonym. That got a little tiresome for me, but I do appreciate her ﬁerceness.
I had to be a bitch to maintain any kind of authority. Well, if I were a man, I wouldn’t have been considered a bitch. If I were a man, I would simply have been in charge, however aggressive and demanding I was. I wouldn’t have had other people running about ﬁlming things behind my back. A man putting his foot down is in control. It’s strong. A woman putting her foot down is out of control. She’s weak.