Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: The Girl's Guide to Homelessness by Brianna Karp

The Girl's Guide to Homelessness: A Memoir by Brianna Karp
Reviewed by Ingrid

Published: 2011

It's about: Brianna Karp was raised by an abusive mother as a Jehovah's Witness in Southern California. Because of her living circumstances he learned to take responsibility and stand up for herself at a young age. Brianna attended college, got a great job, and was finally able to afford to rent her own place. When the recession came in 2009, Brianna found herself laid off from her dream job, unable to continue to pay her rent, and eventually kicked out of her mom's home. Finding herself homeless at 23, she took her inherited 30 foot trailer and started living in the local Wal-Mart parking lot. Brianna began blogging about her experience and eventually wrote this book.

I thought: I actually first heard of this book in the Summer Reads section of People magazine, and I knew I wanted to read it right away! I am fascinated by wilderness survival, or survival situations of any kind, really. This book was a very quick read for me. The story was intriguing and moved quickly. I found myself rooting for Brianna and completely open to her message advocating better treatment of and having a more of an open mind toward the homeless, a message which was subtle and strong - not overwhelming at all.

Brianna has a very strong, sometimes playful and witty voice that's consistent in this book, though in places I thought it was inapproprate for her subject matter. For example, Brianna describes in detail incestuous experiences with her father that she endured at a very young age. She described in such a flippant tone that just made me uncomfortable. I didn't like that at all and probably wouldn't recommend this book to certain people because of it.

Ultimately though I thought Brianna had a great story to tell and her message as an advocate to the homeless was strong and effective. She had a unique point of view on a often misunderstood subject. Besides the incest part, this was a great, entertaining read.

Verdict: I'm going to put this one on the shelf.

Reading Recommendations: Grab this book if you want a quick, fun read that will only take you a day or two to get through.

Warnings: Swearing, graphic descriptions of incest.

Favorite excerpts:

"Water was another dilemma, which I solved by picking up several large gallon jugs from Walmart. After that, I saved money by constantly refilling them via hoses or restroom sinks ... Restrooms posed another problem, of course. The trailer had a toilet, but since there were no water hookups, it was useless to me. So, instead, I located an Arco gas station up the street that was open twenty-four hours a day. I tried to regulate my peeing schedule, but occasionally I would wake up in the middle of the night with an uncontrollable urge. In a pinch, I would hop into my car and cruise up the street to the Arco ... For showers, I found various options. There's always the possibility of a cheap gym membership, of course, which I eventually found. I also learned that the most gyms offer free one-week passes to entice new members. you can print these out at a library or FedEx Office, use it for a week, then move on the the next gym in the area. A 25-cent printout for a free week of showers. Yes, please!"

"Sustainability is the key to any lifestyle. Sure, I could sell my phone and my laptop for the price of a few hamburgers. But, the, the hamburgers would soon be gone, and so would my phone and my laptop. I would have absolutely no phone, so an employer could contact me. And without a laptop, I would only be able to search and apply for work online during the hours that the public library was open. I wasn't always homeless, of course, and neither were most of the homeless people out there, whether they're the more visible ones you see in the doorway of a 7-Eleven begging for spare change or they're able to blend in a bit better, as I do." 

What I'm reading next: Still working on The Second Sex. Almost done!