Monday, July 22, 2013

A Review of 'The Girl's Guide to Homelessness' by Brianna Karp

"Brianna Karp entered the workforce at age ten, supporting her mother and sister throughout her teen years in Southern California.  Although her young life was scarred by violence and abuse, Karp stayed focused on her dream of a steady job and a home of her own.  By age twenty-two her dream became reality.  Karp loved her job as an executive assistant and signed the lease on a tiny cottage near the beach.  And then the Great Recession hit.  Karp, like millions of others, lost her job.  In the six months between the day she was laid off and the day she was forced out onto the street, Karp scrambled for temp work and filed hundreds of job applications, only to find all doors closed.  When she inherited a thirty-foot travel trailer after her father's suicide, Karp parked it in a Walmart parking lot and began to blog about her search for work and a way back.

Karp began her journey as a homeless person terrified and ashamed.  Fear turned to awe as she connected with other homeless people whose remarkable stories inspired her to become an activist for the homeless community.

Deeply compassionate and darkly funny, this unforgettable memoir celebrates the courage and creativity of lives society would otherwise stigmatize."

I got this book for my 19th birthday from my friend Avery.  My birthday is in December, but I've only just gotten around to reading and finishing it.  I wish that I had started sooner!

This was such an engaging read!  Brianna Karp's writing style really flows and jumps at you-- it's just wonderful and that's partially what makes this such a great book!  But that's not all that's great.

I also like how Brianna is as a character (I know that she's a real person).  It's wonderful that despite every awful thing that turns up in her life, she just works with it.  That's not to say that she's happy or okay with those things happening, but she rolls with it.  Makes sure that she'll be okay when it's all over.  I admire her because I don't know that I could be as resourceful as she was and as snappy and intelligent as she was in the face of a crisis, like being kicked out of the house by her undiagnosed, abusive mother with no place to go, no job, and very little money to live off of.

I admired how she was able to narrow things down to the bare essentials, first taking care of her basic needs like shelter, food, a place to get clean, etc.  When she had to make choices between losing on thing or another (such as when her car and the trailer that she was living in were towed and impounded), she chose the one that would allow her to keep going the longest.  I feel like I would be too sentimental to do that.

Throughout this book, I was extremely angry as well as completely wrapped up in Brianna's story.  The other people in her life, with a few exceptions, were awful and crazy and irrational.  It aggravated me to no end.  Her mother ground my gears worst of all.  She was the worst and most irrational of everyone in Brianna's life.  She was beyond abusive and very manipulative.  I felt helpless just reading what she said and she's not my mother!  To me, she's just a character in a book.  But she's powerful, even from the page... that's a scary thought.

There are two things that I want to know more about after reading this book: (1) I want to read more about homelessness.  Brianna really helped to change and correct my views on homelessness.  Whenever I see someone on the street corner with a sign that says something like, "Need food for my kids.  God bless," I can't help but think, "That's going to be your drug money, isn't it?"  It could be true, but this person could also just be struggling to stay afloat and this is a last-resort effort.  They probably had a job and a home before something in their life happened and took one or both of those things away.  So while I'm still weary when I see someone on a street corner, I'm trying not to be so quick to judge their situation.  (2) I want to read more about Jehovah's Witnesses.  From reading this book, I've become extremely angry with this group.  But I want to understand their views.  Their views are very different from my own.

If you're looking for a challenging read, want to know more about homelessness, and/or are looking for a book involving a lot of struggle in life and overcoming that struggle, this could be the book for you!

I give 'The Girl's Guide to Homelessness':
Thanks for Reading!


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