Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman
Rory Hendrix is the least likely of Girl Scouts. She hasn’t got a troop or even a badge to call her own. But she’s checked the Handbook out from the elementary school library so many times that her name fills all the lines on the card, and she pores over its surreal advice (Disposal of Outgrown Uniforms; The Right Use of Your Body; Finding Your Way When Lost) for tips to get off the Calle: that is, Calle de los Flores, the Reno trailer park where she lives with her mother, Jo, the sweet-faced, hard-luck bartender at the Truck Stop.
Rory’s been told she is “third generation in a line of apparent imbeciles, feeble-minded bastards surely on the road to whoredom.” But she’s determined to prove the County and her own family wrong. Brash, sassy, vulnerable, wise, and terrified, she struggles with her mother’s habit of trusting the wrong men, and the mixed blessing of being too smart for her own good. From diary entries, social worker’s reports, half-recalled memories, story problems, arrest records, family lore, Supreme Court opinions, and her grandmother’s letters, Rory crafts a devastating collage that shows us her world while she searches for the way out of it. Girlchild is a heart-stopping and original debut.
I really liked the writing style in this book. It’s broken down into small diary-like entries chronically Rory’s life, although not entirely in order. Interspersed are reports from a social worker and entries that are more philosophical in nature or general observations about life in the Calle.
Rory and her mother move from California to just outside Reno, NV when Rory is 4. Her four older brothers have moved away to find their father, and Rory and her mother go to live in a trailer park, known as the Calle, to be near her grandmother.
Grandma Shirley had Jo when she was a teenager, Jo had her first child at 15, so Rory is the hope of the family. She is smart, and everyone is determined that she shouldn’t mess up her life by getting pregnant. It reminded me of Me & Emma and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, but it was also very unique in the style and voice.
I was attracted to this book because of the inclusion of Girl Scouts in the description. And while there is a thread of references to the Girl Scout Handbook, it’s not as big of a plot element as I was expecting. The book definitely centers more about Buck v. Bell in which “feebleminded” women are deemed worthy of infertility by the Supreme Court.
This quick read is a collage of snippets of the tragic and unfortunate way of life of many poor people in America.
My Rating: 3 Stars
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Summer Challenge: 4 of 8 books read.