cover image Tanqueray


Stephanie Johnson and Brandon Stanton. St. Martin’s, $24.99 (192p) ISBN 978-1-250-27827-2

Two years after Johnson shared her story on Stanton’s popular Instagram account Humans of New York, she commands the spotlight again in this hypnotizing account of her past as a Black burlesque dancer. Of their first encounter in 2020, Stanton writes in the foreword that the septuagenarian immediately captivated him—and later more than three million Instagram users—with tales of dancing in New York City in the 1970s under her stage name, Tanqueray. With help from Stanton, Johnson returns to those stories to bare it all on the page. Recalling the many travails she faced before finally running away to New York City, Johnson details her childhood growing up with an abusive mother in 1940s Albany, N.Y.; a teenage pregnancy with a married man; and a prison stint for burglary. Forced to give up the baby for adoption, Johnson moved to the city with dreams of dancing on Broadway and eventually started performing in adult theaters. Johnson’s storytelling skills are undeniable as she dispenses tantalizing anecdotes, from bumping elbows with James Brown to hustling side gigs, like sewing custom sequined G-strings from dental floss. While her exploits are titillating, Johnson reminds readers that “underneath all the laughs and the gags, it was always about one thing: survival.” This has it all: humor, intrigue, and heart. (July)