Girlchild: A Novel

Girlchild: A Novel

by Tupelo Hassman

Paperback(First Edition)

View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, July 25


A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

Rory Hendrix, the least likely of Girl Scouts, hasn't got a troop or a badge to call her own. But she still borrows the Handbook from the elementary school library to pore over its advice, looking for tips to get off the Calle—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 one of the "third-generation bastards surely on the road to whoredom," and she's determined to break the cycle. As Rory struggles with her mother's habit of trusting the wrong men, and the mixed blessing of being too smart for her own good, she finds refuge in books and language. From diary entries, social workers' reports, story problems, arrest records, family lore, and her grandmother's letters, Tupelo Hassman's Girlchild crafts a devastating collage that shows us Rory's world while she searches for the way out of it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250024060
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 02/05/2013
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 628,072
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Tupelo Hassman graduated from Columbia's MFA program. Her writing has been published in the Portland Review Literary Journal, Paper Street Press, Tantalum, We Still Like, and Zyzzyva, and by 100 Word Story, Five, and Invisible City Audio Tours.

Read an Excerpt




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 say this was due to her willingness to welcome them back, and Mama may have been an easy lay, but I'm cool with that because any easy lay will tell you, making it look easy is a lot of work. Still, no matter how fine she looked, especially after she got herself a set of fine white dentures for her twenty-fifth birthday, Mama never forgot how ugly she felt with those snaggly teeth. In her head, she never stopped being a rotten-mouthed girl.


It's the same with being feebleminded. No matter how smart you might appear to be later with your set of diplomas on their fine white parchment, the mistakes you made before the real lessons sunk in never fade. No matter how high you hang those documents with their official seals and signatures, how shining and polished the frame, your reflection in the glass will never let you forget how stupid you felt when you didn't know any better. You never stop seeing those gaps in your smile.



Copyright © 2012 by Tupelo Hassman

All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Girlchild: A Novel 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
savannahcook More than 1 year ago
I almost gave up on this book, then would read one more short chapter after the other until I got to the end and said, "Well, I'm glad I read that book." I work at a middle school, and this book helped to remind me that not all children have a loving mother and father at home helping them succeed in school and in life. This little girl raised herself, protected her mother from knowing that she was being molested, and evidently was brilliant in school. The book ends the only way it could - with her striking out on her own. Yes, it's hard to follow at times. Then again, the chapter with all the lines blacked out showing what it was like in the dark bathroom ... well, that was brilliant if you have an imagination. So, take your chances if what I've said intrigues you! For those who are interested in knowing more about students who are this age, I also recommend Alice Bliss.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
different than anything else i've read recently, but i'm not sure i could or would recommend this book to others. girl growing up poor, fatherless, in a trailer park, misunderstood, abused, somewhat depressing overall author's writing is hard to follow at times glad i read it but also glad it's finished
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. She nailed it - the people in Calle, the girl and her mother and her grandmother; the abuse and wanting to still belong to her mother, and having to figure out how to forgive the fact that she wasn't protected. How hard it was to leave, and how it all stays with you even when you do leave and move on and do better than where you came from . . . I knew this girl once and I knew those people. She totally nailed it.
Lilac_Wolf More than 1 year ago
The cover caught my eye. A trailer that looks like it would feel at home in my trailer park but set in the desserts of Nevada. I started reading and it knocked me over to read a story that followed my own childhood eerily close. It didn't hide how common child sexual abuse is, but it didn't go into painful detail either. I think it was the perfect balance on such a difficult topic for so many (too many) women. This story is not an easy read. It deals with those living in poverty for generations as their own counter-culture. I thought it was brilliant because so much of it range true. Especially how anyone from the government (including or and especially police) is not to be trusted. How very hard people work just to get by. During a time when the stereotype of the welfare abusers is running rampant, we see that is stupid because even with welfare, life is hard and lean. I thought this was such a sad read, and so well written I literally couldn't put it down. It's not going to be for everyone. The story is written almost like a diary, with the time-frame and memories jumping all over the place without a lot of hints about where you are currently at in Rory Dawn's life. But I absolutely loved it, the story was completely captivating.
HarrietteWilson More than 1 year ago
Beautiful novel that takes on difficult topics---multigenerational poverty and physical and sexual abuse---in a sensitive way. The author's stream of consciousness approach might not be for everyone, but for those who appreciate its lyricism this is an incredible read.
Monie120 More than 1 year ago
This book has good moments but it really wasn't what I expected. Not something I'd recommend. I've read better books about traumatic childhood experiences.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tupelo Hassman is Shakespeare of the trailer park. Loved reading Girlchild.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
she remembers many of the things that kids do and think to try to keep themselves sane in an insane world.
literatissima More than 1 year ago
Rory Dawn Hendrix is an under-privileged, imaginative young girl, growing up a the low-class trailer park known as "The Calle" (de Las Flores) outside Reno, NV. She is the mother of a teenage mother who is the daughter of a teenage mother as well. There is heartbreak and disappointment in this life, but Rory finds comfort in The Girl Scout Handbook, spelling words and using her imagination to escape. Beautifully written in brief digestible chapters, stream of consciousness and intercalary interludes lend a unique voice to the main character and her coming of age saga. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of modern lit, coming of age novels, serious dramatic themes and anyone who started out with a rough beginning in life.
Vick29 More than 1 year ago
Still trying to get through this book.....hate not to finish reading a book that I have paid good money for but it is hard. I guess I should keep my opinion to myself until I finally do finish it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hard to follow. Depressing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I felt that she assumed readers could follow her thoughts more easily than they could. Very depressing concepts and attitude.
Beamis12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The character of Rory quite quickly won me over and I found myself just wanting to grab her and get her out of there. She is also the narrator and tells her story in a matter of fact tone of voice in relatively short musings. Parts of this were hard to read but I just found myself wanting something good to happen for her. The writing is unique as is this first book by a new author. Can't wait to see what she does next.
alexann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rory isn't your typical Girl Scout. For one thing, she belongs to a troop of one. She always "does her best", but in fact, the Girl Scout Handbook is not of much help to Rory in dealing with the issues life throws her way. Living in the high desert just outside Reno, Rory's home is a double-wide in a trailer park in a neighborhood that locals call The Calle. Her mom works the bar at the truck stop across the street, and Rory is left to do much of her growing up on her own--or with the help of careless babysitters who unwittingly leave her in dangerous situations from which she may never recover. Told in her own voice (with the help of letters from Grandma and documents from an unseen social worker, Rory's story is by turns hysterical and heart-breaking. First novelist Tupelo Hassman has created an unforgettable heroine in Rory Dawn Hendrix, strong as steel, delicate as a lace doily--this reader won't be forgetting her soon! A wonderful debut!
lahochstetler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rory Dawn Hendrix is growing up poor in a trailer park in Nevada. The women in her family have all moved from early pregnancy to lives of poverty and drudgery. Rory is determined to get away from her trailer park, the Calle. The Calle conforms to every stereotype of lower-class white America. Adults move from mindless jobs to bars and casinos where they drown themselves in alcohol and dreams. Little is expected of children and little attention is paid to them. Sexual, physical, and emotional abuse are the norm. Rory's guide to life is her Girl Scout Handbook. With this she sets about tasks of survival and discovering what information county officials are harboring about her family. Undoubtedly this is an unusual book. It is written as Rory's diary, from childhood through her teenage years. Her youthful observations give voice to the desperation of poverty, and the sense of futility that pervade the Calle. The book is intriguing, it is also depressing.
smileydq on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Creatively written, the story is at times funny, realistic, and yet horrifying in its tragedy. The story is told in short chapters in a wide variety of styles, tied together loosely by Rory, the girl, reading from the Girl Scout Handbook and trying to model her life through the outdated and often irrelevant advice she reads there. There are also letters, parts of files from the state, pages that are mostly blacked out words and more - enough style that at times it overwhelms the plot, though for the most part I think the unique style was what carried the story. The reader gets a real sense of Rory and her life, from childhood through adolescence. There is a plot but the book is almost more about human resilience, the character of a family and a town and the nature of intelligence than it is about the story itself. I found the book sad and I didn't find the end uplifting in the same way as many other reviewers, but I did think the author managed to wrap up the tragic story with a little bit of hope.
coolmama on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a heartbreaking, and beautifully told debut novel.Narrated by Rory Dawn Hendrix, the child of a single mom, who lives on a trailer park called the Calle in Reno, NV. She tells the story of her life through self-narrated diary-like entries, SAT-like questions, sections of the Girl Scout Handbook, and transcriptions of her mom's past Welfare reports (which she stole). Rory lives on the wild-west like, rule free Calle and attends school where she is so intelligent, the spelling bee is her ticket out of there. Her mom works at the local truck stop bar and she is cared for by the Hardware Store Man, his daughter Carol, and her grandmother.Tupelo transforms us to this world in her direct, heartwretching descriptions of life that is hard to survive, and even harder to get out of.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Typical literary "wonder" that speaks in constant metaphors that are supposed to be artistic but actually are boring and redundant. Of course, I didn't graduate from an Ivy League MFA program so what do I know? Not so much a novel as a stream of consciousness, disjointed and hard to follow. I was bored and then bored even more with the predictable foray into molestation. Sigh. Can't any story be written about a female character that doesn't fall back on this tired theme? I regret the time lost slogging through this even more than the money spent on it.
KateUnger More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RebeccaScaglione More than 1 year ago
Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman is one of those books, that after reading other people's reviews, I was dying to read.  And luckily, this book fell into my hands after a library book sale (those are always the best, aren't they?). Girlchild is a book about Rory Dawn Hendrix, a girl who lives in the trailer park in Reno with her mother and near her grandmother.  Her life is not beautiful, not wonderful, not uplifting in any way at all. But Rory finds a connection with the Girl Scout Handbook, which is her bright shiny way out of the trailer park. Will Rory be able to break the cycle and not get pregnant young?  Will she be able to leave the trailer park and set up a new life for herself?  Or will she be just like her mother, stuck in the rut of the trailer park lifestyle forever? This is a tough book to read about.  There are issues like sexual abuse, drugs, and drinking.  But the sexual abuse is much less explicit (almost "hidden"), not like in the book Push. But similar to Push by Sapphire, Girlchild is a tough read that should be read.  It's a small window into a world that is foreign to most of us, but is REAL.  Don't shy away from it because it's tough: embrace it. What do you think about these kinds of tough reads? Thanks for reading, Rebecca @ Love at First Book