Advance praise for Girlbomb
“This affecting, silver-tongued memoir observes with absolute precision the slipperiness of being a teenaged girl in a world where friends backstab and parents betray you. Candid, searing, and, at times, wickedly funny, Girlbomb is an uncommon story about a remarkable adolescent who, in a bid to save herself, chose homelessness over her mother’s one continuous mistake. Stunning.”
–Amanda Stern author of The Long Haul
“Janice Erlbaum has all the stuff that cult icons are made of. Women everywhere will find their Basketball Diaries in Girlbomb.”
–Koren Zailckas, author of Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood
When Janice Erlbaum was just 15, she began a treacherous descent. Her abusive stepfather moved back into her mother's apartment, and she moved out. Living first in a shelter and then in a group home, she slipped into numbing routines of drugs, drink, and casual sex. Even her return home didn't alleviate this ongoing crisis; she staggered through the '80s, adrift on coke and angel dust while hanging out in clubs and dangerous neighborhoods. Somehow, "Girlbomb" (a pun on "Erlbaum") survived and lived to write this crisp, intense memoir.
In Girlbomb , it's all gritty and drippy and raw. Erlbaum's story is frustrating, maddening. She's the gifted high schooler whose aggressive delinquency breaks parents' hearts and makes teachers despair that their work has meaning. You want to shout, "Don't!" You want to buy her frightened, proud teenaged self some self-esteem.
It's also perversely riveting. You want her to survive.
The Washington Post
Erlbaum, a columnist for Bust, left her Manhattan home at 15 after her mother reunited with Erlbaum's abusive stepfather. Landing first in a shelter and then a group home, Erlbaum-shattered by her mother's choice-embarks on a treacherous course of self-destruction. Casual sex with a series of brutally uncaring boys coupled with daily drug and alcohol abuse become her antidote to the violence and racism in the child-welfare system housing her. Her isolation and loneliness threaten to swallow her whole. Yet when Erlbaum's mother invites her home (the dreaded stepfather gone for good), things don't improve. Erlbaum has more freedom, which allows more opportunity for trouble. At 17 she leaves again (this time to live with an older boyfriend), becomes addicted to the cocaine so plentiful in the 1980s New York club scene and nearly dies from an overdose. Through Erlbaum's adolescence, she often seems a willing victim. In her chaotic senior year of high school, she begins writing stories, attempting to put the life she's been living into perspective. Her memoir (comparable to Koren Zailckas's Smashed) reads like a neorealist novel. Sharp yet poignant, raw and vivid, it illumines the dirty underside of American girlhood and brings it to harrowing life. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
At 14, Erlbaum, a columnist for Bust magazine, became fed up with her mother's latest abusive husband and left their Brooklyn apartment. This memoir chronicles Erlbaum's teenage years, rife with typical issues that were intensified and complicated by her ongoing search for a place to call home. As the author moves from a shelter to a group home to her boyfriend's apartment, she re-creates the chaotic environment that her mother's revolving door of oft-abusive boyfriends and husbands had lent her from her early life through her own escalating promiscuity and drug use. Erlbaum perfectly captures the gritty landscape of the shelters, streets, and social scene of 1980s Manhattan and the gritty thoughts and feelings of a teenager immersing herself in flaky friends, lewd boys, violence, and drugs. Her uphill battle to gain independence and autonomy will rivet, and her easy, often humorous tone gives the impression of a lengthy epistle from a close, troubled friend. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries and particularly high school libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/05.]-Amanda Glasbrenner, New York Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-The author's childhood was not a pleasant one. Her mother's string of abusive boyfriends and husbands had left her with no choice; after her mom kicked her last stepfather out, Erlbaum told her, "If you take him back, then I'm leaving." When she was 15, she left her Manhattan home after her mother once again reunited with the man. She spent several weeks in a shelter and eventually ended up in a group home. She had casual, unprotected sex with a string of boys and abused alcohol and drugs. Just over a year after she moved out, she moved back in with her now-single mother, and the book's title (a play on the author's last name) was realized: life as a high school student clashed with the cocaine-fueled club scene of the 1980s. This memoir illustrates the conflicting desires of adolescence-to fit in, to be loved, and to be independent. The writing is concise and engaging, but, most of all, it's honest. Erlbaum doesn't try to excuse her behavior; rather, she analyzes why she went down that self-destructive path and what made her change her ways. Readers will find solace in the knowledge that, despite the lack of structure in her home life, she managed to pull it all together. She worked at an after-school job, starred in a school play, graduated high school, and got into college.-Erin Dennington, Chantilly Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Post-feminist blogger and Bust magazine columnist Erlbaum recounts her rough-and-tumble, drug-and-sex-addled adolescence, focusing on a year spent in the New York City shelter system. On Nov. 1, 1984, 15-year-old Janice checked into a shelter for young women to escape family abuse. The only white girl there, she was a constant target of harrowing verbal and physical violence. After six months, she moved to a group home run by a sadistically strict matron who seemed to delight in Machiavellian control tactics. Surrounded by a motley crew of colorful castoffs, Janice the Liar (the author does not let herself escape her own cleverly critical tongue) was surrounded by such freaks as Shirley the Nympho and Becky the Baby. Entrenched in the world of the "halfway homeless," Erlbaum continued to attend high school, an archetypal over-intelligent underachiever who used her smarts in the service of scoring drugs and manipulating authority figures. Bored, insecure, sometimes simply nihilistic, the attractive redhead used her feminine wiles and generous endowment to become the school slut. Finally, at the tail end of a solitary acid trip, she found true love with tattooed Sebastian, a fellow damaged soul. Together, the Sid and Nancy Lite duo acquired (but later kicked) a nasty cocaine habit. Erlbaum writes with gusto and has an excellent sense of pacing. We come to care about her, perhaps because we are never unaware of her weaknesses and flaws. By the end, readers may feel they have relived their own painful, turbulent teen years. Vivid, painfully realistic coming-of-age memoir.