Villard (2003), $23.95
The fact that senior citizens want to get laid shouldn't make headlines, but it does. Many folks don't like to admit that Grandma and Grandpa need sexual healing, too, yet they may sing a different tune after reading Jane Juska's memoir. A retired schoolteacher from Berkeley, Juska is out to set the record straight in this hilarious and touching narrative of her re-entree into the dating world after 30 years of being single. Spurred by the fear that she might never have sex with a man again, Juska placed this personals ad in The New York Review of Books: "Before I turn 67 -- next March -- I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like." She pulls no punches about her desires ("I adore penises. They do wonderful things for me and I do wonderful things for them."), a remarkable feat for any woman, particularly one as cultured and respectable as Juska. That, perhaps, is her greatest coup. She takes sex out of the dark and renders it commonplace, even natural, while at the same time portraying it as a wondrous gift that we can all lose if we're not careful.
Juska's sexual escapades form the bulk of the book, but they are only one part of her rich story. In between trysts, she remembers battles with weight loss, a history of sexual abuse, work as a high-school teacher and as a creative-writing instructor at San Quentin Prison, and her lifelong love affair with New York City -- compelling details that add context. Juska shows us that sex is a necessity that motivates all of our relationships, even interactions between teacher and student, parent and child. Her quest may get readers to take notice, but it's her lesson -- it's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks, and to have lots of fun doing it -- that's the real reward.