Girlchild A Novel

Tupelo Hassman




Trade Paperback

288 Pages



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Winner of the American Library Association Alex Award
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
A Booklist Best Adult Book for Young Adults
A Library Journal Best Book
Shortlisted for the 2012 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize

Rory Hendrix, the least likely of Girl Scouts, hasn’t got a troop or a badge to call her own. But she still borrows the Handbook from the elementary school library to pore over its advice, looking for tips to get off the Calle—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 she is one of the “third-generation bastards surely on the road to whoredom,” and she’s determined to break the cycle. As Rory struggles with her mother’s habit of trusting the wrong men, and the mixed blessing of being too smart for her own good, she finds refuge in books and language. From diary entries, social workers' reports, story problems, arrest records, family lore, and her grandmother’s letters, Tupelo Hassman's Girlchild crafts a devastating collage that shows us Rory's world while she searches for the way out of it.


Praise for Girlchild

“A voice as fresh as hers is so rare that at times I caught myself cheering . . . I’d go anywhere with this writer.”—Susannah Meadows, The New York Times
“So fresh, original, and funny you’ll be in awe . . . Tupelo Hassman has created a character you’ll never forget. Rory Dawn Hendrix of the Calle has as precocious and endearing a voice as Holden Caulfield of Central Park.”—The Boston Globe
"This is Hassman's debut novel, and it's a stunner. Here's hoping she goes on to write more that will equal girlchild's charm and bright, burning fire."—Richmond Times-Dispatch 

"Rory is like a miniature Margaret Mead, observing and chronicling the life of the trailer park with an insider's knowledge . . . It's her voice, as well as the offbeat ways in which she presents her coming-of-age story, that make girlchild so memorable."—Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air 

"Rory will remind readers of other hard-luck heroines: Linda in Terrence Malick's movie Days of Heaven, Olive in Little Miss Sunshine, Bo in Off the Map . . . These girls, with everything working against them, clawing them down, rise up, are dignified, tough, and beautiful."—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Review of Books

"At once a ragtag anthem to the generations of single mothers raising their children on their own, a brilliant critique of the inadequacies of social services, and a colorful depiction of the extraordinary hurdles that children who break the cycle of poverty have to face . . . Hassman's wildly inventive prose explodes off the page."—Heather O'Neill, author of Lullabies for Little Criminals

"This first novel is not like anything you or I have ever read . . . A testament to joy and beauty, and to the saving power of language wherever it gets a foothold."—Jaimy Gordon, National Book Award-winning author of Lord of Misrule

"Rory Dawn Hendrix is a long time quiet before she roars from her mother's trailer in Reno, Nevada. Her voice is funny and pained, confused and outrageous. Tupelo Hassman's girlchild's a triumph."—Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of American Salvage

“A lyrical and fiercely accomplished first novel . . . In Hassman’s skilled hands, what could have been an unrelenting chronicle of desolation becomes a lovely tribute to the soaring, defiant spirit of a survivor.”—People
“Moments of strange beauty enhance our sense of the Calle community . . . [Hassman] makes Rory’s milieu feel universal.”—Megan Mayhew Bergman, The New York Times Book Review
“Powerful . . . Rory transcends her bleak situation through dark humor and unaccountable smarts.”—San Francisco Chronicle 
“This amazing debut spills over with love, but is still absolutely unflinching and real.”—Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake


“With a compelling (if harrowing) story and a wise-child narrator, Hassman's debut gives voice—and soul—to a world so often reduced to cliché. A darkly funny and frequently heartbreaking portrait of life as one of America's have-nots.”—Kirkus Reviews

“[An] inventive, exciting debut . . . Hassman’s creatively titled, short, free-form chapters are helium-filled imagination fodder, and Hassman takes what could be trite or unbelievable in less talented hands and makes it entirely the opposite.”—Annie Bostrom, Booklist

“Blighted opportunity and bad choices revisit three generations of women in a Reno, Nev., trailer park in these affecting dispatches . . . This debut possesses powerful writing and unflinching clarity.”—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

girlchild teethMama always hid her mouth when she laughed. Even when she spoke too gleefully, mouth stretched too wide by those happy muscles, teeth too visible. I can still recognize someone from my neighborhood by their teeth. Or lack of them. And whenever I do, I call these people family. I know immediately that I can trust them with my dog but not with the car keys and not to remember what time, exactly, they're coming back for their kids. I know if we get into a fight and Johnny shows up we'll agree that there has been "No problem, Officer, we'll keep it down." I know what they hide
Read the full excerpt



  • Inside the World of "Girlchild"

    Tupelo Hassman introduces us to her young narrator Rory Hendrix and her Girl Scout troop of one.



  • Tupelo Hassman

  • Tupelo Hassman graduated from Columbia’s MFA program. Her writing has been published in the Portland Review Literary Journal, Paper Street Press, Tantalum, We Still Like, and Zyzzyva, and by 100 Word Story, Five, and Invisible City Audio Tours.
  • Tupelo Hassman Bradford Earle
    Tupelo Hassman




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