love and struggle – and survival

I don’t think I’ve read many books as unflinching about the hardships of childhood, yet as affirmative of the love that rises and endures despite struggle, poverty, and abuse.  An amazing first novel by Tupelo Hassman.

Author Heather O’Neill writes: “Tupelo Hassman’s ruthless dissection of the laws, traditions, and values of a trailer park will leave you horrified and laughing uproariously.  Girlchild is at once a ragtag anthem to the generations of single mothers raising their children on their own, a brilliant critique of the inadequacies of social services, and a colorful depiction of the extraordinary hurdles that children who break the cycle of poverty have to face.  But mostly it is a description of the seismic transformations that happen within each of us as we fly the coop.  Hassman’s wildly inventive prose explodes off the page.”

From the book, in the chapter anthropologize:

The basic subsistence pattern on the Calle is commonly referred to as living paycheck to paycheck.  Welfare and disability checks, payroll checks, and the ever rare child-support check are all spent long before they arrive.  These checks are supplemented with a collection of surplus or government food, such as peanut butter and certain cheeses.  In instances where fresh food is particularly desirable but unattainable, a family eats its way through frozen potpies bought on sale for nineteen cents apiece and waits for better days.  Gambling is important to Calle residents, both during and after their shifts at the various downtown casinos, and can be accomplished in several ways, including via lottery tickets, blackjack, and drunk driving.  In addition, Calle men hunt and trap everything from birds to stray hubcaps to small girls, using slingshots, shotguns, and the rustle of candy wrappers.

“This is fiction, although it’s a first novel and the first novel trap is to write about your life,” Hassman said. “So Rory and I started out a lot the same, but now we’re not the same anymore. She does things I never did and she’s bolder than I’ve ever been.”

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