The "girlchild" of this raw straightforward debut audiobook is Rory Dawn Hendrix, whose life begins on the Calle de los Flores, a poverty-stricken neighborhood in Reno once envisioned to be a high-end development to serve as a playground for the rich.
It is the 1980s, long after the funding for the dream community dried up in a bad economy, and the Calle is now a collection of trailers with a truck stop, where Rory's mother Jo works. For a time Rory's grandmother also lives on the Calle; like Rory's own mother, her life was shaped by a teenage pregnancy, subsequent divorce and poverty, and life choices made mostly by the county social services agency.
Rory's grandmother tells her, "One of us has to make it out of here, and it's gonna have to be you".
Considering Rory's circumstances, it's a tall order. Her Mom often works the night shift and goes out drinking afterwards; Rory frequently finds herself left with virtual strangers to care for her, or worse, alone. To fill the time Rory reads The Girl Scout Handbook, completing projects and awarding herself badges as she achieves her goals. It's not long before Rory is reading everything she can get her hands on.
Then, one day at school, the "Briefcase Man" comes in and shows her some charts and graphs with her name at the top of all the squiggly lines, explaining to her that she's the smartest girl in the school. She soon finds herself at the County Spelling Bee, and it seems like she might really make it out.
"Girlchild" is not the first story if its kind, but it's honest and unpredictable, told in Rory's own voice, through social worker home visit reports, and sections of the Girl Scout Handbook. Some of the brief chapters consist of word problems that make no sense, reflecting the unsolvable problems in Rory's world.
Prior to publishing this novel, Tupelo Hassman's work had appeared in The Independent, The Boston Globe, Harper's Bazaar, and Literary Journal, among others. Hassman lives in San Francisco's East Bay, and was the first American ever to win London's Literary Death Match.
Rory Hendrix is the least likely of Girl Scouts. She hasn’t got a troop or even a badge to call her own. But she’s checked the Handbook out from the elementary school library so many times that her name fills all the lines on the card, and she pores over its surreal advice (uniforms, disposing of outgrown; the right use of your body; finding your way when lost) for tips to get off the Calle: that is, the Calle de las Flores, the Reno trailer park where she lives with her mother, Jo, the sweet-faced, hard-luck bartender at the Truck Stop.
Rory’s been told that she is one of the “third-generation bastards surely on the road to whoredom.” But she’s determined to prove the county and her own family wrong. Brash, sassy, vulnerable, wise, and terrified, she struggles with her mother’s habit of trusting the wrong men, and the mixed blessing of being too smart for her own good. From diary entries, social workers’ reports, half-recalled memories, arrest records, family lore, Supreme Court opinions, and her grandmother’s letters, Rory crafts a devastating collage that shows us her world even as she searches for the way out of it.
Tupelo Hassman’s Girlchild is a heart-stopping and original debut. Download and start listening now!