girlchild by Tupelo Hassman is a poetic novel about a child born into a life no one would ever ask for. A life one must either succumb to, or fight through. A life that takes you, or a life you take back. The hardened characters we meet throughout this story are each fighting battles and demons, some that we see, but many more that we cannot.
This is so much more than a story of a friendless trailer park kid, her alcoholic mother, her “make a better life for yourself, dammit!” grandmother, and the molesting and bullying demons that defined her childhood. It was a very difficult book to read, though there were a few moments of true hope. “Oh, she will survive! She is a survivor!” In fact, I had to put it down a few times to compose my emotions and remember that I was just reading a book (but sadly, for so many, this life isn’t fiction…).
girlchild reminded me a lot of the novel Room by Emma Donoghue, which is narrated by a five year old boy born into captivity. His mom was kidnapped, raped, and forced to live in a reinforced shed for over 5 years until they escaped. It was a harrowing novel to read, and the child narrator was both naive and smart beyond his years. I felt the same way of Rory Dawn in girlchild. Every so often you wanted to scream, “No! No! Don’t go in there!” or “No, he’s evil! Don’t talk to him!”. Being a child, Rory succumbed to the pressure of the older child, or the manipulation of the adult. It made my stomach turn knowing that this happens all. the. time. To thousands of children. It made me think of the Penn State scandal. It made me think of the first thing I did when that news came out: donate to RAINN: Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network. Reading girlchild made me want to do it again. Maybe my $20 could inform one more adult, which could save one more child.