Narrated through free-form chapters using diary entries, social worker reports, arrest records, letters and even Supreme Court decisions, Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman reads like a cross between The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman and Dorothy Allison's Bastard out of Carolina. Rory Dawn Hendrix lives in the Calle de las Flores Trailer Park - a ruined development skirting the wrong side of Reno. Her mama has a problem with booze and bad men and, even though she's quit on men, Grandma can't kick Kino. Family history foretells a future littered with unwanted pregnancies and rotten teeth. But Rory, determined to escape her legacy, excels at school - using a battered copy of the Girl Scout Handbook as her moral compass and earning imaginary badges in her scout troop of one.
Girlchild is Hassman's debut novel and, though the story isn't pretty, the writing is beautiful. Scarred yet strong, the women of Rory's family instill in her an optimism and resiliency relayed through her youthful clarity on every page.