The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness

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Author: Brianna Karp
ISBN: 978-129179691-3
RRP:$29.99

My mind is still reeling a little at all of the information I have taken on board through Brianna Karp’s heartfelt story-telling and the phrase burnt on my brain is ‘a memoir’. If this was a work of fiction I could take it all in my stride, read and process it and move on, but this isn’t fiction; this isn’t the product of someone’s imagination. This is the account of a lifetime of experiences faced by Brianna Karp; experiences that horrified, angered and saddened me that anyone should have to live through.

There was a point yesterday where I really wanted to skip to the end to read the last few pages just to see if there was a happy ending that could make me want to keep reading for. And no, I’m not going to tell you whether there was or not but I will tell you that I was strong and I didn’t skip to the end. I forced myself to wait and get to the end as a natural progression.

Brianna sets the scene beautifully with a chapter one that gives you the biological background on her heritage and gives a little insight as to where she’s coming from, which comes in quite handy as you learn more about her childhood and all of the events leading to her writing the book.

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The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness really is a book that you need to read to believe. I could tell you even half of what’s contained in these pages and you probably wouldn’t believe me, I am still trying to process how one person can get through all of this and come through the other side strong and motivated.

Brianna joined the workforce at age ten and survived a childhood scarred by violence and abuse, through it all she stayed strong by remaining focused on her dream of a steady job and a home of her own. She realised her dream with a job she loved and a cottage all of her own, and a gorgeous pet dog to complete the picture… until the Great Recession that saw millions left without work – Brianna among them.

Brianna lost her job but she didn’t let it beat her, she faced the future with uncertainty but also with a plan. She moved into her newly inherited travel trailer and began a blog to follow her journey.

This memoir certainly shines a new light on homelessness, making us face our judgements, fears and assumptions and re-evaluate them. Brianna is an educated, well spoken, motivated, capable woman who is not mentally ill and doesn’t use drugs. She is just like all of the rest of us, and the back cover of the book says

If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn’t have assumed that I lived in a parking lot. In short, I was just like you – except without the convenience of a permanent address.

Brianna has a way of looking at things that made me question judgements I didn’t even know I ever made, prejudices and opinions that when I look at I am not proud of but that I never would have realised I held without reading this book.

Homelessness is a widespread issue all over and everywhere has their own way of addressing the issue, and they vary widely as do all other customs.The homeless are not confined to dirty, drunken, mentally ill old people sleeping in cardboard tents under bridges, or drug addicted runaway teenagers. Homelessness can strike anyone, especially in times of global financial crisis, and a lot of it comes down to how you choose to handle the situation and how well you work with what you’ve got.

Brianna used her experiences to make a difference with her life and has become an activist for the homeless community, giving them a new face and challenging the stigmas often found in society.

This memoir is extremely disturbing in places, for a multitude of reasons, but it also inspires deep compassion and an increased awareness of what could be happening around you. It will challenge your prejudices and assumptions and in my case it gave me great pause for thought on what I felt about the homeless and what constitutes homeless too to an extent.

Read it – nothing I saw will truly convey what this book invoked in me so all I can say is go out and read it for yourself. I think you’ll be glad you did.

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