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Girl's Guide to Homelessness by Brianna Karp
Girl's Guide to Homelessness.jpg

Photo: Book cover from the book's images on Goodreads

 

Very odd but very readable memoir that starts off as the story of Karp's extremely messed-up family (she has a few memoirs still left in the tank on this alone). But it then becomes the story of the unfortunate decisions she makes as she looks for love in all the wrong places.  The publisher is Harlequin, so I suppose this makes sense, but the story arc still comes across as schizophrenic.  The best (as in, well-written) parts are the details of her father's sexual abuse and her mother's mental, emotional and physical abuse, as well as the tenets of their religion--Jehovah's Witness--that makes all that possible.  A very well-written memoir still needs to be written about that alone--about how a religion imprisons the children of its followers.  One does not doubt that what she says here about the religion is true: apparently, a severely abused woman is told to be better to her husband, and the abuse should go away.  This would make a Pulitzer-winning memoir in of itself.  I'll never look at Jehovah's Witnesses the same again.  No longer will they be, for me, the quaint men in black who bravely go door-to-door, knowing said doors will be slammed in their faces, but doing it anyway.

One would think that this would create some controversy, but it hasn't.  What has created controversy, strangely, is the second schizophrenic half of this memoir, where she chronicles her rise from depressed homeless person living in Wal-Mart's parking lot in SoCal (Did you know that some Wal-Marts let homeless people live in their parking lots in their cars and campers?  I didn't.  I'm interested to see if my local Wal-Mart allows this.  If so, kudos to them.  This book brings up something I've wondered about: How are homeless people to sleep in safety if they're not allowed to park their cars in parking lots for fear of being towed?  Where are they to go?) to winning writer/blogger of the homeless and working for Elle Magazine and going on the Today Show to write about it.  The controversy starts when she mentions that some guy came to her trailer to interview her, treated her shabbily and did the same to other interviewees he tried to "help."  She wrote that she asked him to not mention her real name, or her real location.  He does, anyway, and says that it's too late when she complains.

I saw online yesterday that he says all this isn't true, but that he took the video of the interview down anyway, per advice of his lawyer after Karp's book came out.  Surrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre...There was also some silly stuff about her not really being homeless, since she (usually) had a car, and a cellphone, and something that resembled shelter.  These people are simply not seeing the true face of homelessness for God knows how many: the homeless of the 2000s won't just be unshaven and bench-sleeping alcoholics and addicts.  They'll be recently-successful people who through downsizing have lost their jobs, and who through the housing crunch/crisis have lost their homes.  In other words, but for the Grace of God, one of most of us...

Even more controversial was her description of how utterly catastrophic her last relationship ends, with the same guy who'd helped her rise from homelessness to super-blogger and Today Show guest.  Lots of stuff online says all or most of this latter stuff was fake, especially the stuff about what happened when she hopped a flight to surprise him at his home across the pond.  Uh-oh...Those never turn out well.  But what happens to her here is truly horrible.  But is it true?  Sounds like it to me, though it does seem incredible that one person has gone through everything she chronicles here.  But being someone who's been to Hell and back several dozens of times, I can assure you with some bitter truth that several lives of horror and travesty can all happen to one person.

Very disturbing to me, though, is how Karp seems to have fallen off the map after October/November of last year.  I went to www.girlsguidetohomelessness.com to see what was new with her (it's her own blog, as well as a site to assist the homeless), to see if she's still homeless.  But the site seems to have been abandoned after Oct./Nov. 2012, as does her other online ventures, including her blog at Goodreads.  What gives?  This is odd for someone with a book released just last year, and for someone who was so ardent a helper with the homeless.  Her public appearances and book-signings also seem to have stopped very abruptly.  There is no Wikipedia page for her, for the book, or for the oft-mentioned website--all very odd for a new-ish author and book.  In short, I have a more thorough web presence than she now does, and that's not good for a new author of a bestseller.  There is not a lot of internet backlash about her book, a la James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, so I wouldn't just assume that she has had to take it all down.

I simply don't know.  One hates to assume the worst, so...I'll prefer to think that she's just taking a well-deserved break from it all.  The last thing I heard about all this is that, in Oct./Nov. 2012, she had to leave the apartment she was in because her landlord was selling, but that she was able to move into a much better place.  If anyone has an update on her, or her website of the homeless, please let me know.  I wish her well, and after reading this book, which you should, you would wish her the best, too.

Comments
10 Comment count
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A very interesting review.

A very interesting review.  Your enthusiasm for this book is palbable.

Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

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Thanks

Katherine,

Thanks for reading it.  Any insights or comments you can offer are always appreciated.  Sorry I've been a little bit of a hermit lately: it's the end of the year for my job, so it's chaos time.  And my own writing has been taking up the remainder of what little time I have right now.

In fact, I should go and re-introduce myself to my housemate...

I'll stop by your blog soon.  Thanks for still checking this out, despite my absence.

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Steven, Your comment is very

Steven,

Your comment is very sweet and, of course, I would love you to read and comment on my blog.  HOWEVER, please rest assured that I don't practise reading other people's blogs on an exchange rate basis.  Those I read, I read because I enjoy them.  There are blogs on the RR that I read and comment on regularly, even though their authors have never never once left a comment on mine.  Similarly, many of my loyal WordPress readers (I post the same post on bith sites every Sunday) leave comments, whose blogs I hardly ever read (the main reason for that is just lack of time on my part).  

So do drop by my page whenever you feel like it but please, please don't make it homework.  I'd hate to think people felt somehow bound.  

I wish you a less chaotic time at work soon, so you can write more.

Katia :–)

 

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Reciprocity

Katia,

You got it.  And I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who comments on cool things without expecting--or even wanting--reciprocity.  But I won't lie, either: My pageviews go down when I (barely) have the time to post semi-consistently, but not to place comments on the blogs of others.  Happens to everyone, I suppose.

And that makes me very, very appreciative of readers like you who come back and knock on my door, even when I can't knock on yours.  So...thanks very much for that. 

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A review of homelessness

Great review, Steven and having read your excellent blog I am intrigued by this story and your insight into it. Thank you

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de nada

Nicholas,

No problem.  You're welcome.  Thanks for reading, for the nice comments, and for asking to be a neighbor!

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I'm now obliged to read this

I'm now obliged to read this book.  The story itself seems quite intriguing, and you give us so much extra, as-compelling information that now I want to know what's happened to her too.  

If you find out, you let us know, and we'll all do the same.  In fact, I'll be Googling her in about 2 seconds...

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Nothing new to report here. 

Nothing new to report here.  What did you find out?

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Nothing.  Looks kinda hinky.

Nothing.  Looks kinda hinky.  No posts or responses to comments left on the book's FB page.  Then couldn't find much of anything for her on Google in 2013.  Save for a response to someone doubting her claim that she hadn't ever voted.  The response was made in April of this year to a blog she posted in October of 2012.   Obviously, she must be doing some monitoring of things.

It's pretty weird, that's for sure.  Maybe there were some doubts voiced late last year and then to keep a lid on it, she went into near-complete incommunicado. 

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Very Odd

I'm glad you agree that it all seems sort of messed up.  The thing is, she really was on The Today Show, as there are clips everywhere on Youtube about it.  And she really was homeless; really lived in a trailer at a Wal-Mart; really got a job for Elle while homeless.  Really had the homelife she wrote about.  Seems like the online drama started with the relationship part of the book, which is the final third or so.  Before that, really harsh-hitting stuff, very worthwhile reading.  I don't doubt that maybe there's some emo drama on her part, and definitely on the two guys who're responding.  But you might agree that this isn't exactly a huge backlash on their part, or on hers.  In fact, she seems to have fallen off the grid.  I don't know that she's become homeless again, but has instead had some sort of situation in which she thought it was better to just hibernate for awhile.  But for someone so devoted to spreading the word about homelessness, this sudden disappearance is shocking, especially when you consider that she still has a book and a blog to promote, for altruistic and for monetary reasons both.

Very, very odd.  Seems like there may have been some sort of breakdown, maybe.  Let's just hope she's taking some well-deserved time off.  I wish her well, whatever it is.  I wish I was more computer savvy to further look into this, but...