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“exhilarating...compulsively readable”
Publisher's Weekly

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Other Books

Gypsy: The Art of the Tease
The first biography of Gypsy not written by a member of her family.

Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show
In the New Yorker, Francine du Plessix Gray called it a "landmark." In the Washington Post, Elaine Showalter wrote that Striptease was both "scholarly" and entertaining"

Other Books


Gypsy: The Art of the Tease

The first biography of Gypsy not written by a member of her family. A true icon of America at a turning point in its history, Gypsy Rose Lee was the first—and the only—stripper to become a household name, write novels, and win the adulation of intellectuals, bankers, socialites, and ordinary Americans. Her outrageous blend of funny-smart sex symbol with the aura of high culture—she boasted that she liked to read Great Books and listen to classical music while taking off her clothes on-stage—inspired a musical, memoirs, a portrait by Max Ernst, and a species of rose. Gypsy is the first book about Gypsy Rose Lee’s life, fame, and place in America not written by a family member, and it reveals her deep impact on the social and cultural transformations taking shape during her life.

Rachel Shteir, author of the prize-winning Striptease, gives us Gypsy’s story from her arrival in New York in 1931 to her sojourns in Hollywood, her friendships and rivalries with writers and artists, the Sondheim musical, family memoirs that retold her history in divergent ways, and a television biopic currently in the making. With verve, audacity, and native guile, Gypsy Rose Lee moved striptease from the margins of American life to Broadway, Hollywood, and Main Street. Gypsy tells how she did it, and why.

Praise for Gypsy: The Art of the Tease

–San Francisco Chronicle Lit Pick 

“Rachel Shteir’s new biography and assessment, “Gypsy: The Art of the Tease,” is a scholarly but personable look at the life and times of a showbiz phenomenon who in the days before feminism was called an “unrepentant whore” by her puritanical critics.”

“My favorite Gypsy quote from Shteir’s book is: ‘Yeah, God is Love, but get it in writing.'”

“The slim volume offers poignant nostalgia and a reintroduction to one of the great courtesans of the stage.”

–Susie Bright, San Francisco Chronicle

—David Kirby, Houston Chronicle
“A satisfyingly short and smartly analytical study in which cultural commentary and biography are deftly woven together.”

—Frances Wilson, Times Literary Supplement
“That [Gypsy’s] star rose during the economically catastrophic ’30s was no accident: Her demure flirtation—as sly a construct as her breakaway gowns—was not only sexy but wickedly funny, a tonic for the worst of times.”

—Cathleen Medwick, O
“Shteir tries to show us more of Gypsy than the censors would allow—if not of her body, then of her mind and spirit…In Shteir’s hands, Gypsy becomes a working-class heroine, a feminist role model, a pioneer of contemporary sexuality, even an American icon.”

—Adam Kirsch,
“It is simply impossible…not fall in love with Gypsy’s tenacity, wit and confounding, beguiling, oh-so-American mix of self-mythology and self-awareness.”

—Lily Burana, Washington Post
“An elegant and insightful study of Lee’s self-fashioning”

“Ms. Shteir’s “Gypsy: The Art of the Tease” … indicate[s] the kind of analysis short biographies often provide so well. For those unfamiliar with the Lee biblio graphy, which comprises not merely her own memoirs but those of her sister and other family members, Ms. Shteir’s is the book to pick up first.”

“Ms. Shteir, steeped in the history of striptease, provides a shrewd analysis of Gypsy’s reminiscence, noting that it “conflates several stories from showbiz mythology”: the show must go on, a star is born and my mother made me do it. The signal point, Ms. Shteir notes, is that Lee could not present herself as stripping of her own accord. That would be “too naughty” and “vulgar.” Yet, Ms. Shteir observes, Gypsy did not protest her mother’s brash maneuvering.”
— Carl Rollyson, Wall Street Journal
 “At tims, it seems as if Shteir is writing not merely a life, but nothing less than a history of strip, or of publicity, or, possibly, of modern America. Or, at least, another entry in the annals of satire, as Gypsy perfects what Shteir calls her ‘brand of beating up on wealthy Americans while flirting.”

Plays International

Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show

“A distinctly American diversion that flourished from the Jazz Age to the era of the Sexual Revolution,” striptease emerges as closer kin to vaudeville than pornography in this engaging if sometimes overly detailed survey. Shteir, head of the department of dramaturgy and dramatic criticism at DePaul University, offers fascinating details about stripper subculture, past and present, and includes numerous photographs of and quotes from stripping’s famous practitioners, such as Gypsy Rose Lee. Readers will learn about “horizontal cootching” and fan dances; the use of trained animals in acts at the 1939 World’s Fair (“doves peel her,” wrote a Variety columnist of stripper Rosita Royce); the conflicts between big-name strippers and their “cheap” burlesque counterparts; the 1962 federal crackdown on organized crime that dealt a grave blow to striptease. Shteir reaches, throughout, for a larger cultural meaning in the girlie show, and the paradox of stripping’s possibilities—it offered women a shot at independence but required them to sell themselves as spectacle to do it—is familiar but still intriguing. The gender politics and cultural theory she employs as analytical tools may limit her audience to those already well versed in such ideas, but Shteir’s discussions of the ways that striptease informed American culture and her careful descriptions of the women and their milieu are bright moments.”

Publishers Weekly

“ “The first serious history of the form…could prove to be a landmark work…. Meticulous.”

— Francine du Plessix Gray, New Yorker 

“Packed with historical detail and contemporary feminist insights…Both flaunting sexuality and making fun of it, the girlie show found an irreverent way to educate Americans about sex. Shteir’s scholarly and very entertaining book is part of that great tradition.”

–Elaine Showalter, Washington Post 

 “”Fascinating and well-researched…A genuine contribution to the history of American culture.”

–Toni Bentley, New Republic,

“Elegant account celebrating the art of erotic undressing.”

–Sunday Times of London

Houston Chronicle

“Striptease, while minutely detailing U.S. stripping history, poses such questions throughout. Shteir avoids pat answers, yet always recognizes that there remain serious equality questions surrounding public female nudity, even when it feels like fun to the female nude.”

Globe & Mail (Canada)

“An impressive, substantial study from Minsky’s to Chippendale’s.”

–Dallas Morning News

“Rachel Shteir’s glorious history makes stripping and burlesque an essential part of American history.”

–The Age (Australia)

 Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show was also a Boston Globe Editor’s Choice.

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