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September 8, 2022

Hannah Sward's Playlist for Her Memoir "Strip"

Strip by Hannah Sward

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Hanna Sward's Strip is an unsettling, moving, and totally unforgettable memoir.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"... elegant prose, stripped of all sensationalism and demands for pity...a fresh, literary addition to the courageous and resonant addiction-memoir genre."

In her own words, here is Hannah Sward's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir Strip:


Ravi Shankar: “Raga Yaman Kalyan”
Chapter: “Oyster’s, Blackberries, and Dad’s Typewriting”
Spring 1975 – Lasqueti Island, British Columbia
Scene: My dad and I are living on a houseboat. In between his meditations, I hear him typing poems on the old Royal listening to sitar. Later, side by side we sit with our journals in our laps spreading words across the paper.

‘I like night on the houseboat. I lay on the dock. So many stars, the sky gets all glittered up like it’s going out dancing.’

Queen: “Another One Bites the Dust”
Chapter: “The Witches’ House”
Winter 1980 – Toronto, Algonquin Island
Scene: My dad moves the family to an Island with no cars or stores. We live in a house with an outhouse and bathtub in the kitchen. My room is in a little loft in the living room.

‘I paint a rainbow on the ceiling and I have an aqua plastic record player, play “Another One Bites the Dust” over and over.’

Wham!: “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”
The Beatles: “Strawberry Hills”
Chapter: “Reggie Jackets”
Summer 1984 – Florida

Scene: I am visiting my little sister in Florida. Once a year we see each other. We glue our hands together so we can be together forever.

‘Close to the time when I have to take the airplane home to my dad, we fight. Go to our separate rooms and slam the doors. After a couple of songs—Wham! on high volume behind her door, The Beatles from mine—we sit close to the vent separating us and wait for one of us to talk.’

Carole King: “So Far Away”
Chapter: “My Father’s Women”
1986 – California, Santa Cruz
Scene: Living with my dad and his new girlfriend in her house with polyester bedspreads, Country Crock butter and her stinky dog Clancy. My room is painted yellow, I hate yellow, and his girlfriend doesn’t like me. My mom lives in Florida with my little sister and my stepmom and my little brother have moved back to Canada.

‘Before school, I listen to Carole King on the record player.’

Over and over, I play “So Far Away”.

Fats Domino: “Blueberry Hill”
Chapter: “Peeling Avocados for Karma”
Winter 1984 - California
Scene: Dad and me in his old avocado Volvo driving way up into the mountains to see Baba Hari DaSs. Windows down, the towering redwoods, we listen to “Blueberry Hill” on the tape recorder until the cassette tape snaps.


Leonard Cohen: “Suzanne”
Chapter: “Waiting”
Scene: I move to Montreal. My studio apartment is infested with baby cockroaches, I am lost and lonely and eat too many chocolate croissants. I listen to Leonard Cohen. I want to be Leonard’s Suzanne.

‘Cockroaches with a brown metallic sheen appeared every day when the sun went down. I slept with the lights on so I could trick them into thinking it was still daytime. I spent most of my time walking around the city, especially at night. I wanted to run into Leonard Cohen.’

2Pac – “California Love”
Chapter: “The Wild Goose”
Los Angeles
Scene: I move to Los Angeles. Rilke gets a part in Showgirls. I visit her on set. She can’t wait for filming to end so we can spend all day together driving around in our black 4Runner listening to 2Pac. Rilke wasn’t happy because she ate too many donuts on set and felt fat. The other girls didn’t eat donuts.

‘Rilke wore a pink-sequined bra and matching panties in her main scene where she had one line, “Nomi, do my boobs look bigger?”

Mother Love Bone: “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns”
Chapter: “Dove Bars & Madame Ava”
Los Angeles, 1992
Scene: I become a call girl.

‘I didn’t even look at jobs for waitressing or hostessing. I went straight to the adult classified section of the LA Weekly. ‘Make $1000 a night.’ I’d make more than in Chicago.

“Two months then I’ll quit, and never again,” I told myself.

A week later I was sitting across from Madame Ava at The Silver Spoon on Santa Monica Boulevard.’

Jane’s Addiction: “Jane Says”
Chapter: “Strip”

Rilke and I become obsessed with Jane’s Addiction and start hanging out with the band. After a night of stripping, we’d drive across town to IOP for blueberry pancakes and then go home and roller-skate on the hardwood floors blasting “Jane Says”.

Ella Fitzgerald: “Summertime”
Chapter: “The Little Boy in the Blue Jumper”

‘I hated doing the movie extra work, so I got a job as a hostess at a restaurant on Sunset Plaza. I stood outside in the sun, wiped the menus clean, seated people with tears streaming down my cheeks.
One of the busboys asked, “You’re not going to kill yourself, are you?”’

Gorillaz: “Sunshine in a Bag”
Chapter: “Dope & Bald Pussies”
Scene: I meet Duke who I rescue from a Jewish rehab, pile all his belongings (consisting of a garbage bag full of video tapes of Bald Pussy porn) and we hole up at The Safari Inn on Venice Boulevard for three days doing meth. Duke told me meth was sunshine in a bag.

‘He threw his arms around my waist, lifted me into the air. I looked down at his shoulders. The B and the D of his last name were tattooed across the top of his back where the tank wasn’t covering. I wanted my name tattooed on him.’

Survivor: “Eye of the Tiger”
Chapter: “Corn on The Cob and Porn”
Scene: I’m at my foot fetish dealer Eddy’s house. He paints my nails every time I come over. He’s out of meth so we go to Tiger’s house.

‘Tiger was in that band that sang “Eye of the Tiger,” in Rocky. He opens the door. His skinny loose arms and all that pale skin hung there.’

Bob Dylan: “Visions of Johanna”
Chapter: “Ricardo’s Unshared Dream”
1999 - Los Angeles
Scene: I meet Ricardo.

‘I loved Ricardo. He liked Bob Dylan, old movies, Somerset Maugham and Bukowski. But Ricardo wrote poetry, and the one thing I said growing up is I’m not having any poet. No money. Constant revisions.’

Temple of the Dog: “Say Hello 2 Heaven”
Chapter: “Speed in The Bushes”
Scene: I am once again, in my nightgown in the backyard gardening on speed.

‘Each time a thorn pierced me I told myself to put on gloves before breaking another branch, following the bougainvillea into the bush. I was caught in the vines, tearing them apart, tearing me apart. My arms were scratched, my mouth dry. An hour passed, then two. I was on my hands and knees, then back on my feet. My shins were scratched, knees dirty, and my jaw, it was very tight. How many years had I spent in the bushes with my head down, tangled in the weeds?’

The Cranberries: “Dreams”
Chapter: “Drinking in Therapy”
Scene: My therapist tells me if I keep coming in ‘like this’ (drunk) we can’t work together anymore.

‘I knew the escape would only begin when I stopped.’

Hannah Sward is the author of Strip, A Memoir. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous literary journals including Arts & Letters, Yemassee (University of South Carolina), Halcoyne (Black Mountain Press), Red Wheelbar¬ow, Porter Gulch Review, Other Voices (Canada), Anthology of The Mad Ones, Milk, Alimentum, Anthology of Women Writers, Hypertext, Pig Iron Malt, Pindeldboz, Nerve Cowboy, Afternoon, Wimpole Street Writers, and Word Riot. She has been a regular contributor at Erotic Review since 2015 and was Editor and Columnist at Third Street Villager Los Angeles and a contributor at The Fix and YourTango. Hannah is on the board at Right To Write Press, a nonprofit that supports emerging writers who are incarcerated. She lives in Los Angeles. Find out more at

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