THE MANGO TREE | Kirkus Reviews


Stephanie Johnson


Brandon Stanton

illustrated by

Henry Sene Yee

RELEASE DATE: July 12, 2022

A blissfully indirect and sincere look at the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.


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A former New York dancer reflects on her heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and featured on the Stanton Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic story as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture for Midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress who shimmied to blues tunes during 18-minute sets or sewed lingerie for plus-size dancers. While her job was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed of, it eventually became all about hustling at night simply to survive. Her anecdotes are funny, heartfelt, and extremely endearing, told with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a seasoned, street-savvy New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive family in 1940s Albany, a teenage pregnancy and time in prison for robbery as casually as she recalls selling rhinestone thongs to prostitutes to make them glitter in the headlights of passing cars. . Complemented by a series of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia for the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Her encounters with a variety of hard-working dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus her account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addicted dealer, fill the memoir with personality and candor. With Stanton’s narrative help, the result is a consistently compelling and often moving story of human struggle, as well as an inside look at the days when Times Square was considered the gloriously rough underbelly of the Big Apple. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully indirect and sincere look at the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Publication date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Saint martin

Review published online: July 27, 2022

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