Homeless. Not hopeless. Not helpless.
Brianna Karp’s memoir, The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness, is a challenging and confronting memoir of her experience as one of the millions of homeless people in the United States. She is educated, intelligent, articulate, has no mental health or drug problems, and until the recession of 2008-09 hit, she was in a well-paid job as an executive assistant. Through a combination of events that were out of her control, including several years of emotional, mental, physical and at times sexual abuse from those who should have loved her and cared for her the most, she ended up homeless with a Dodge Ram and 30-foot caravan to her name. And Fezzik, a gigantic Neapolitan Mastiff. But nowhere to call home.
The memoir is honest, at times brutally so, and even at its most shocking, I could not put it down. It is confronting to say the least, to read about Brianna’s life before she became homeless. And yet she clearly shows that she is constantly planning to rise above what life has thrown in her way. She started a blog, on whimsical advice from a friend, and before too long the blog became a focal point for her new life as a homeless person. While searching for work, she kept it updated and became somewhat famous, and also found people who she would be proud to say are “the family she chose”.Â While life is not always smooth sailing for Brianna, she manages to keep an optimistic attitude and this shines through the book even when she is at devastatingly low points. Towards the end of the book, she comments how she is still making lemonade, because unfortunately life tends to be full of lemons when you are disadvantaged in any way. Brianna Karp’s story, while not yet at the happy ending stage, is primarily an optimistic account of how she is determined to make herself succeed at her primary goal – which is to have somewhere to call home.
It is a sobering read, to realise that even if you have never ever dreamt of being homeless, that in fact it could happen to anyone at any time, and even people you pass on the street could be homeless and you may never know. Because in this time, in this place, the homeless are refusing to fit into the stereotype that many of us have. And until I read this book, I too would be guilty of having an unchallenged stereotype of homelessness in my mind. But now … now I realise that it is possible that the lady I sit next to on the train may have no fixed abode. That the man who I buy coffee from might not know where he is going to sleep next week. And that homelessness is not a disability. It is a disadvantage, sure, but it is not a defining characteristic of a person. It could be you or me, and that is the lesson I have taken from this book.
View Official site: girlsguidetohomelessness.com
Available now: Harlequin Books RRP$22.49