Thursday, September 8, 2011

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

Born in Southern California to a family of fourth generation Jehovah's Witnesses, Brianna Karp and her mother bounced around a lot, often displaced with Brianna in and out of foster homes. They didn't have a lot of help with abusive, philandering fathers and step-fathers. Dreaming of the day she could set down her own roots in her own home and determine her own outcomes, Brianna finished school, got a job as an executive assistant and thought she was finally beginning her new life at the age of twenty-two. But when the 2008 recession hit, Brianna lost her job and ultimately her home despite voracious attempts at finding employment. After six months of no-hope job searching, she began to blog about her trials. When her father committed suicide, Brianna inherited a travel trailer which she began lived in, stationing it in the local Wal-Mart Parking lot where others just like her had done the same. She began to blog about her situation, gradually gaining newer and ever more eye-opening acquaintances who shared her plight and could resonate with her circumstances.

Karp is a talented writer but there's been some issues with this book. The title is a little too misleading because even though the original blog title was "a girl's guide to homelessness", the memoir is a more about Brianna's own reality of a transient lifestyle rather than the truth of homelessness and destitution (she was never without a roof over her head). A strong argument could be made that her "homelessness" was really "joblessness" and that certain decisions (family relationships, spending choices, lifestyle patterns, etc.) may have preserved Karp's situation more than she admits to--choosing to live in one of the priciest and most economically volatile locales in the country (Orange County, CA) couldn't have helped matters just as saving for a European vacation and then flying to Scotland during her homeless stint doesn't really coincide with book's main emphasis. There's a definite resilience to her character though and a gumption not found in young people her age. Add to that a miserable childhood full of lies, mistreatment and abuse and the memoir is very admirable. Even her very open and vindictive bitterness seems somewhat acceptable and it was enough to get her a book deal and an highly laudable internship at Elle magazine. But, eh, you be the judge. (B KARP)

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