Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Girl's Guide to Homelessness by Brianna Karp

During her homeless year, Brianna Karp chronicled her homeless experience on the blog The Girl's Guide to Homelessness. She was young, educated and according to her own account, had worked for over a decade, even as a teenager, at a variety of jobs that left her with plenty of marketable skills. When she was suddenly laid off from a job that she loved, she was forced to move back in with her parents, though coming back into the household with her abusive mother would not make this a long stay. However, Brianna was resourceful: she was able to use the unexpected inheritance of a trailer and move onto a local Walmart parking lot, find a place to shower and soon a job--though she did remain homeless, she was able to enter a community of homeless activists.

And she also met the man she thought she would marry. A significant portion of the book is devoted to her romance with a man from Scotland who would ultimately abandon her, and in the cruelest of ironies for a homeless activist, abandon her to the elements in the middle of winter. (Yeah, asshole is not quite the word...)

Brianna is remarkably resilient, turning a string of misfortunes into a job, a blog, a book deal and finally finding a stable job, at least at the time of the epilogue, and a place in the homeless activist community.

Caveat emptor: If you have any association with the Jehovah's Witnesses, you may not be happy with Brianna's depiction of the church or their position on several issues, or how she categorizes the group as a "cult"; however, she is basing her description on her experience with the church. I would also like to give a fair warning for the brief depictions of child sexual and physical abuse. These warnings should not scare readers off from the book, especially since I think it is an important book for librarians who have no or limited experience with homelessness, to read, since many homeless people use libraries for places to job search, research and rest, and Brianna's book does put a youthful, educated, female face on homelessness after the recent recession.

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