Tupelo Hassmans Girlchild is a heart-stopping and original debut.
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.
Mama always hid her mouth when she laughed. Even when she spoke too gleefully, mouth stretched too wide by those happy muscles, teeth too visible. I can still recognize someone from my neighborhood by their teeth. Or lack of them. And whenever I do, I call these people family. I know immediately that I can trust them with my dog but not with the car keys and not to remember what time, exactly, they're coming back for their kids. I know if we get into a fight and Johnny shows up we'll agree that there has been "No problem, Officer, we'll keep it down."
I know what they hide when they hide those teeth. By the time Mama was fifteen she had three left that weren't already black or getting there, and jagged. She had a long time to learn how to cover that smile. No matter how she looked otherwise, tall and long-legged, long brown hair, pale skin that held its flush, it was this something vulnerable about the mouth and eyes too that kept men coming back to her. The men would likely ...
Although Hassman's novel is, undeniably, a series of small gems tied together by one character in search of answers, it's also a broader meditation on what it means to grow up female in small town America.
(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).
Full Review (510 words).
Although many elements - from her grandma's letters, to her mother's hopes, to her friends' expectations - help shape Rory's understanding of what it means to be a girl in her small community, one institution does more than any other to shape Rory's perception of American girlhood: the Girl Scouts of the USA.
The Girl Scouts of the USA were founded by Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low (pictured, middle) in Savannah, Georgia, in 1912. Part of a worldwide Scouting movement founded by Robert Baden-Powell in 1909, the Girl Scouts (known as Girl Guides in the UK and Canada) believed that girls should be given opportunities to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually. A combination of domestic preparedness, civic engagement, and outdoor ...
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