Here’s a repost of my review of Brianna Karp’s Girl’s Guide to Homelessness. I wrote it in 2013 for Epinions.com. I’m posting it here as/is.
In 2011, I read an article about Brianna Karp, a California woman who’d published The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness: A Memoir that year. This e-book has been on my Kindle since May 2011 and I just finished reading it. The article I read made Karp’s story sound fascinating, but I just never got around to picking it up until now. I’m glad I read Karp’s story, for it turned out to be as compelling as promised.
Who is Brianna Karp?
Brianna Karp is a former Jehovah’s Witness, raised by an abusive, bipolar mother and her stepfather, whose surname she adopted when her abusive biological father left. Karp was raised to be a devout Witness, adhering to the religion’s strict rules and taking her place as a helpmeet to a faithful male Witness. As Karp was a thinker and questioner, she left the Witnesses and got an education, then landed a job working for Kelley Blue Book. She earned $50,000 a year and rented a cottage in Orange County, California. She had a dog, a horse, and a car. Then she got laid off.
Karp lost everything and moved in with her parents. Her biological father died and she inherited his truck and trailer. Then she had a fight with her mother, who kicked her out on the street. Karp was then forced to live in her inherited trailer.
Brianna Karp became homeless, like an increasing number of other people as the recession continues. The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness is her story of a year spent living in a WalMart parking lot, using free wireless Internet at Starbucks, purchasing cheap gym memberships for showers, looking for work and blogging.
Karp would eventually find love and heartache, fame and infamy, and even travel abroad. She learned that some people are not as good as they seem. And she learned that other people are much better than expected.
This book has scathing reviews on Amazon. I’m disinclined to be so harsh. Brianna Karp’s book is very engaging and readable; she comes across as mostly likeable and resourceful to me. I did shake my head reading about her relationship with a Scotsman whose two flights to California she paid for and for whom she borrowed money to make an ill-advised surprise visit to Scotland. Besides the tremendous expense, the Scotsman turned out to be completely unworthy of the gesture.
Though some people felt Karp wasn’t really homeless because she had access to a trailer, phone, laptop, and transportation, I could definitely say she was severely financially challenged. I credit her for being resourceful enough to be a witty and entertaining blogger, which ultimately led to interviews on CNN and The Today Show, as well as publishing a book.
Maybe Brianna Karp isn’t your stereotypical skid row bum, but she does write a compelling memoir. I learned new things reading about her experiences. Her book is worth reading and I assume she could really use the money from book sales. At least it might help keep her off welfare, right?
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