The story of Sub Rosa is bizarre, surreal, intensely wonderful, and horrible at the same time. You must read this with an open mind and heart. The story focuses on Little, a runaway girl who is lost in the world and herself, who gets rescued by a "daddy" and whisked away to the land of Sub Rosa, a magical street of Glories and their working families. Glories are sex workers with charms—they all have different magical powers. There's always food and sunny days on Sub Rosa—no one gets killed or cries. You're taken care of. But there is an underlying feeling of loss on Sub Rosa, too. Your real name can be forgotten, and cherished memories of your life before coming to Sub Rosa are hard to dig up. You're protected on Sub Rosa, but you still lose your identity. There's plenty of work, filled with "live ones" (johns) and some of the nights detailed in the story seem to drain all the energy and power out of the girls. They are empowered though, by the large sums of cash they receive and the ability to heal the live ones and make them "right" again.
I embraced these characters. They are decked with butterfly adornments and glitter make-up, eat pastries from a bakery called Babycakes, and wash and buy their gorgeous clothes out of the most appealing sounding laundromat I've ever heard of. They study science and marine biology. They live on a street where people make offerings to the tar patches in front of their houses. There was so much weird beauty in their existence. At the same time, I felt weighed down by their constant need for attention from the men, both the daddies (pimps) and the lives ones. I had to think about this journey again and again. Do Little and the rest of the Glories really live a life of salvation? What I realized is that I don't think that's the main point of this story. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this magical tale of prostitutes and a street where goodness prevails is showing the light and dark of sex work. It's where the grit of working streets becomes a fantasy rich with complexity. A hint of glow-in-the-dark nail polish flashes through my mind, the smell of freshly laundered dresses. Little's story and the rest of the Glories' stories continue to stay with me, a testament to Amber Dawn's vivid storytelling.