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Girlchild: A Novel Hardcover – February 14, 2012

3.6 out of 5 stars 138 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Beautiful . . . Ms. Hassman is such a poised storyteller that her prose practically struts. Her words are as elegant as they are fierce. A voice as fresh as hers is so rare that at times I caught myself cheering . . . I don't know about you, but I'd go anywhere with this writer.” ―Susannah Meadows, The New York Times

Girlchild . . . unfolds a compelling, layered narrative told by a protagonist with a voice so fresh, original, and funny you'll be in awe. This novel rocks . . . In Girlchild Tupelo Hassman has created a character you'll never forget. Rory Dawn Hendrix of the Calle has as precocious and endearing a voice as Holden Caulfield of Central Park. When you finish this novel, your sorrow at turning the last page will be eased by your excitement at what this sassy, talented author will do next.” ―Mameve Medwed, The Boston Globe

The real pleasure of the book comes from following the wisecracking, tough and sensitive Rory as she struggles to survive and escape the sort of life no girl should have to lead.” ―Michelle Quint, San Francisco Chronicle

It's Rory's voice, as well as the offbeat ways in which she presents her coming-of-age story that make Girlchild so memorable . . . Rory is like a miniature Margaret Mead, observing and chronicling the life of the trailer park with an insider's knowledge and an anthropologist's detachment . . . It's a testament to Hassman's assurance as a writer that, even though we readers have the option of leaving, we hunker down in that trailer park with Rory for the long dry season of her youth.” ―Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air

“In Girlchild, Hassman's spunky, shy and almost accidentally intelligent heroine, Rory Dawn Hendrix, is living in a trailer park outside Reno, ‘south of nowhere.' Her mother, Jo, is a truck-stop bartender prone to trusting the wrong men . . . The book's portraiture is vivid and hauntingly unfamiliar; Hassman's personal history matters less than the artistic care she takes here--and she takes a great deal of care.” ―Sam Allard, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Tupelo Hassman's lyrical and fiercely accomplished first novel brings us three generations of Hendrix women washed up in ‘the Calle' . . . In Hassman's skilled hands, what could have been an unrelenting chronicle of desolation becomes a lovely tribute to the soaring, defiant spirit of a survivor.” ―Helen Rogan, People

Rory Hendrix will soon be a character readers around the country will know. She's the young heroine of Tupelo Hassman's debut Girlchild, a novel that drops us into her home in a Reno trailer park and invites us to be the only other member of her Girl Scout troop. With humor, warmth, and unflinching prose, Girlchild is a youth survival story of the very first rate.” ―Publishers Weekly, pick of the week

This is a gorgeous first novel, as humorous as it is heartbreaking. Some will see similarities between Hassman and National Book Award recipient Jaimy Gordon (Lord of Misrule), and fans of coming-of-age novels will fall in love with Rory's story.” ―Mara Dabrishus, Library Journal (starred review)

“Hassman's debut gives voice--and soul--to a world so often reduced to cliché.” ―Kirkus Reviews

This debut possesses powerful writing and unflinching clarity.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“In this inventive, exciting debut, Hassman writes a 1980s Reno trailer park into a neon, breathing world . . . Hassman's creatively-titled, short, free-form chapters are helium-filled imagination fodder, and Hassman takes what could be trite or unbelievable in less-talented hands and makes it entirely the opposite.” ―Annie Bostrom, Booklist

This first novel is not like anything you or I have ever read. Something between a shocking exposé, a defiant treatise, a prose poem, and an exuberant Girl Scout manual, it is always formally inventive and bursting with energy. Yes, this is an insider's report confirming the worst you ever allowed yourself to think about lowdown trailer parks. And yet somehow Tupelo Hassman's book is also a testament to joy and beauty, and to the saving power of language wherever it gets a foothold. She has irrepressible high spirits, which flow forth in this case as brilliance and lyricism. Tupelo Hassman loves life in spite of everything, and you can't help loving this novel and her.” ―Jaimy Gordon, author of the National Book Award winner Lord of Misrule

“Life is a crazy risk hardly worth attempting for a girl puzzling out her direction without a map in the poorest part of Reno. Justice there seems about as troubling as what it's supposed to remedy. The voice in Tupelo Hassman's Girlchild is funny and pained, confused and outrageous--a triumph and a philosophical treatise on survival.” ―Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of the National Book Award finalist American Salvage

“Tupelo Hassman's ruthless dissection of the laws, traditions, and values of a trailer park will leave you horrified and laughing uproariously. Girlchild is at once a ragtag anthem to the generations of single mothers raising their children on their own, a brilliant critique of the inadequacies of social services, and a colorful depiction of the extraordinary hurdles that children who break the cycle of poverty have to face. But mostly it is a description of the seismic transformations that happen within each of us as we fly the coop. Hassman's wildly inventive prose explodes off the page.” ―Heather O'Neill, author of Lullabies for Little Criminals

“This amazing debut spills over with love, but is still absolutely unflinching and real. That is no easy combo to pull off, and Tupelo Hassman does it repeatedly with precision and grace. Rory D. is ebulliently alive on the page; she's really that kind of fresh new voice people talk about, leaving us with a completely memorable character.” ―Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

“From the first page of Tupelo Hassman's brilliant debut, I fell in love with its unforgettable narrator. I couldn't stop reading until the heartbreaking but hopeful end, rooting for Rory Dawn Hendrix to make her own destiny.” ―Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot

“I'm smitten by Tupelo Hassman's debut. The beauty of this story is how it plays: great turns in language, humor that points to sadness, and a structure that is messy and tidy all at the same time. Girlchild is overwhelming in an engaging and beautiful way.” ―Salvador Plascencia, author of The People of Paper

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 Chapters.com, and Invisible City Audio Tours.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (February 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374162573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374162573
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #979,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Rory Dawn Hendrix lives with her mom in the Calle de las Flores Trailer Park, just north of Reno and just south of nowhere. Rory can trace her lively lineage through three generations of high-school dropouts, unwed mothers, welfare moms, alcoholics, gamblers, bartenders and bar hoppers.

But little Rory is smart, a big surprise to all concerned. She can spell anything and gets good grades. Much of her wisdom comes from reading the Girl Scout Handbook over and over, giving each section her own edgy interpretation. Of course there are no Girl Scouts in the Calle. Rory is a troop of one.

The plot takes us from Rory's girlhood to her fifteenth year, during which short span some very bad things happen and a few good things. Although mothering is not a strong suit in the Hendrix family, Rory loves her mother and grandmother and gives us a moving picture of these vibrant women through personal observation, social worker files, letters and local lore. At the same time, she tells her own story, which is a shocker.

The novel is a knockout cocktail of humor, misery and entirely original ingredients. The writing is terrific, with a jazzy-bluesy flavor. Elements of surrealism and a weakness for wordplay show up now and then in the unpredictable narrative structure.

I tend to get confused when style overshadows storyline, and this happens occasionally in Girlchild. But other readers will be more adventurous and have no difficulties, I'm sure, with the stylistic detours. I enjoyed the novel and would recommend it to readers with a taste for experimental fiction.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Girlchild" is unlike anything I have read before. A composite of different writing styles, it tells a shocking and sad, but often humorous and ultimately uplifting story of Rory Dawn Hendrix, a child of poverty, neglect and abuse in a lower-class town outside Reno, Nevada. But plot is largely beside the point with this magical book. Instead, it stands as a testament to the resilience of human nature and the power of intelligence -- both in the form of "book smarts" and "common sense" -- as well as the dangers of the lack of either. I was moved, entertained, and challenged by this spectacular debut novel. I can't wait to see what else Tupelo Hassman produces.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Growing up is never easy, but when you live in the "Calle" trailer park with your Mom who drinks and unknowingly trusts you to a babysitter who abuses you, it is a lot harder. Rory finds herself in exactly that situation. To help her to learn how to survive, she carries around a ragged, library-owned Girl Scout book filled with irrelevant advice. She is a troop of one. One has to admire Rory's tenacity. She keeps on struggling, striving for something more. Maybe she would be the one in her family who will be able to leave the rut that her family has been in for generations.

I realize that the creative and unusual style of this novel was purposely used to convey the emotions that Rory experienced in her traumatic life. Sadly, I found that sometimes this style was an encumbrance to the development of its characters and even of the plot itself. There were some good ideas here, but I felt that they could have been more effectively expressed in other ways. Nonetheless, this book is an interesting experience.
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By Ferdy VINE VOICE on February 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Girlchild is a novel that is unlike almost anything else I've ever read. It is like opening the pages of a young girl's diary and finding the most beautiful poetry. It's funny, tragic, hopeful, devastatingly sad, naive and wise and ultimately glorious. Rory Hendrix lives in poverty with her single mother in a single wide trailer in the desert of Nevada. She has everything working against her but she always seems to find the good in life anyway. Her story will pull you in and make you want to know this child and to save her, but then you realize she is saving herself because it's what she has to do in order to survive. Tupelo Hassman's writing is truly radiant in this novel. She goes back and forth between narrative by Rory to strange word problems describing the most unimaginable situations to just bits of paragraphs showing through blacked out lines on the page. All of it fits perfectly to show the reader who Rory Dawn is and to make us feel what she is feeling. It is told in single to 3 page length chapters which keeps the novel moving at a very fast pace.
I was completely enchanted by this novel. I would love to see a movie about Rory Dawn and will definitely be on the lookout for more from Tupelo Hassman.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
When I was shopping for a good story I thought the story plot sounded very interesting, a young girl, Rory, living in virtual poverty without direction - family considered trailer trash and no ambition to better their selves. The first several chapters weren't too bad, but it went downhill fast. Near the end I really struggled and at one point I almost called it quits and archived the book, but I hung in and finished it. The ending was very predictable. I was very disappointed in this book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I suppose personal taste has a lot to do with why I didn't like "Girlchild". It's a book that relies heavily on style and on its framework, less so on its actual content. The style hinges heavily on the writing, with characterization flirting dangerously with the original-cliche border. A reader struggling with the basic style will find that the book falls apart fairly quickly.

Tupelo Hassman writes in a rolling, jerky style that attempts to mimic realism but misses the mark somewhat. The short, punchy chapters do more to emphasize the lack of character and plot development than they manage to set a mood. True, the start of the novel is significantly stronger than the remainder - Hassman draws the reader in with "Girlchild"'s potential. But this potential is not reached, and instead of letting Rory, her mother, and her grandmother grow to be fully understood characters, "Girlchild" comes undone and becomes a series of half-explained scenes instead.

It's obvious that "Girlchild" is not meant to be a plot-based book. The somewhat thin character development rules out the option of character-based novel as well. Ultimately, "Gilrchild" is a thematic and stylistic novel, one that tries to paint a specific portrait using specific colors and specific paintbrushes. The theme of poverty is obviously pervasive, but it comes attached with many others: sexual abuse, alcoholism, and gambling all feature prominently in "Girlchild". None of these themes, however, is handled deftly. Each is given a small share of storytime, a sliver of character development, and a smidgen of social commentary. Then the themes fade back into the general murkiness of the book.

But where "Girlchild" fails most is in its character development.
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