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A Review of Girlchild: A Novel by Tupelo Hassman

By: Connor Goodwin

Tupelo Hassman writes in her novel Girlchild, "Telling stories is an important Calle skill and Mama gets the star." With her 2012 debut novel, Hassman also gets a star, in a narrative about the life of a girl named Rory Dawn Hendrix.

However, Hassman's storytelling is not to dupe Johnny Law like Mama Hendrix does, Hassman's novel is of growing up on the Calle, a small trailer park somewhere outside of Reno. A sign along the highway reads: "Calle de las Flores - Come Home to the New West." But no one says "de las Flores," like the sign states. To the residents it's simply called the Calle, “its two Spanish L’s asking why on a desert-bleached sign.” In Girlchild, Hassman does a sort of anthropological diagnosis of the Calle:
"The basic subsistence pattern on the Calle is commonly referred to as living paycheck to paycheck. Welfare and disability check s, payroll checks, and the ever rare child-support check are all spent long before they arrive."

Hassman also touches on its economic system of "generalized reciprocity," the Government also known in the novel as "Johnny Law, the Man, or Those Fuckers," marriage, and, of course, alcohol. "Alcohol," the novelist writes, "is often considered the root cause of both the loss and the revival of Calle souls."

The Hendrix family’s relationship with alcohol is no exception. Mama Hendrix takes whatever bar tending shifts she can get at the Truck Stop. When Mama works the graveyard shift she doesn't get home until late and Rory D., her daughter, stays up late watching TV or reading. Rory D. quickly learns how to take care of herself, how to ward off thoughts of the all too real boogeymen that reside not under her bed, but on the Calle. It's on the graveyard shift where "only the most desperate gambler and drunkards hole up," writes Hassman.

It's where Mama learned to say "Fuck you very much" instead of "Thank you very much." When Mama works the earlier shift, she has time to bar hop on the way home before crashing on the couch, where Rory D. will take off Mama's boots and give her Alka-Seltzer in the morning. Such mornings are about the only time Mama Hendrix isn’t so tough, otherwise she never cracks a smile and fiercely protects her daughter from life on the Calle. Rory D. spends many afternoons at the Truck Stop herself, and soon tried her hand at mixing drinks. She gives the recipe to the American Dream cocktail:
Equal parts sweat and heedless disregard
Dash of bitters
Lucky twist
Stir. Strain. Garnish

For Hassman, place and family are undeniable, deterministic, and ever-present in Girlchild. Throughout the novel, Rory D. notes similarities between the three generations of women in her family and sees herself her from a well-defined legacy:
"Blood is thicker than tar and all the scrubbing in the world won't stop your good and bad blood flowing forever together through your veins, meeting in a rush at corners, gathering force, and washing you back up on the Calle."

Rory D. sees in herself the realization and manifestations of the women before her. She is grandchild to a lineage of women she describes as "Not family trees, [but] more like weeds really, just as simple, stubborn, and unwanted."

Hassman’s writing is playful, somehow, despite the ugly facts of life on the Calle. But Hassman's play is sharp and cutting. She plays with knives and scissors. She cuts and pastes letters from Grandma, reports on the Hendrix family by a social worker, multiple choice tests, word games, court cases against the "feebleminded," the Girl Scout Handbook. These forms are appropriated and subverted and act as lenses to the Calle. The technique is effective and highly political, not only at their formal level via its appropriation of discursive forms used with respect to poverty, education, and the law, but also at the content level. Hassman borrows both form and language but manipulates content to create a particularly jarring political jab. For example, the multiple-choice answers for a "Reading Comprehension" test are:
A) Science, governments, and your doctor should be trusted.
B) "Comforting her deep into the night" is a euphemism for sneaking candy.
C) The ugliest phrase used in this passage is "female."
D) Bad things really do come in threes.

Though Rory D. was able to leave the Calle, the Calle hasn't left her. Place and blood are “thicker than tar.” When you learn the Calle, you learn to grow up quick and you learn the hardness of the world. That’s not all you get from Rory D. though, she isn’t just a hardened tough girl like Mama Hendrix may have been. Rory D. is very clever, perhaps because she was able to leave. Through Rory D., Hassman is attempting to upend certain political forms and forces in an exciting and interesting way. I highly recommend Girlchild for its ability to treat the weightiness of poverty and domestic abuse with a sharp sense of wit and playfulness, without losing any of its seriousness.

Connor Goodwin is an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. He writes stories: and tweets:

Chicago Humanities Festival Literary Highlights

by: Connor Goodwin

The Chicago Humanities Festival is here. Events began October 13 in Evanston with Junot Diaz, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

If you didn't get the chance to see Diaz there's still many more writers featured in this year's festival. Here are a few highlights:

1. Lemony Snicket, the mystery man behind the popular series A Series of Unfortunate Events, will be in Chicago for his first and last stop on his book release tour for When Did You See Her Last?

2. Anne Carson will be reading from her latest work red doc>. red doc> is a sequel to Autobiography of Red, a verse novel well received by critics.

3. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of the novel Americanah, will be receiving the 2013 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction.

4. Jonathan Safran Foer will talk about his recent venture into nonfiction and food writing with his new book Eating Animals.

5. Sherman Alexie is a novelist, poet, and film maker. I read The Absolutley True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in one sitting on a couch, where the rest of my family sat watching a funny movie. I laughed more than them—I didn't look up once.

6. Nicholas Baker will recount his literary career in conversation with Sara Levine.

Besides writers, there are several lectures scheduled for October 19 at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park. You can read an overview of the program here.

What the Editors are Reading: Colleen O'Connor

In recent months, Colleen O'Connor has joined the ACM staff as our new nonfiction editor. To get to know her better, here's some books she recommends.

1. Mercury by Ariana Reines
I read the lines "Tonight I am the only door / Through which you can be made / to disappear" and just about burst.

2. My 1980s and Other Essays by Wayne Koestenbaum
I'm taking this one slowly (one essay at a time, spaced out over a few weeks) because slow and steady wins the race.

3. The Other Walk: Essays by Sven Birkerts
Truth be told I finished this one a month or so ago but I've kidnapped it from a friend and instead of giving it back to him I just keep it around and pick it up and reread these delightful, poignant, super smart essays.

What the Editors are Reading: Caroline Eick Kasner

Managing Editor

I'm reading a few things right now. Normally I try to only read one book at time, but different moods demand different reading material. [You know how it is.]

1. Manifest by Cynthia Arrieu-King
I'm a big fan of Switchback books. This collection is so lovely and accessible.

2. The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
Sometimes, especially before bed, I just want something that will make me turn the pages for 45 minutes. This is that thing!

3. Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. AD 2009) in a Large City by Choire Sicha
I'm starting this tonight/tomorrow/this weekend and am strangely excited about it. Choire is one of the founders/editors of The Awl and I find him funny and endearing.

6 Top Places to Read ACM This Summer

Lurie Garden & Jay Pritzker Pavilion

by Jamie Perry

Summer isn't over yet! Check out these top places to read Another Chicago Magazine before the fall season hits Chicago!

1. Chicago Cultural Center 

For a rainy day, bring your copy of ACM to the Chicago Cultural Center, where you can enjoy the architecture of what was once Chicago's first public library. To supplement your reading, check out Stefan Sagmeister’s exhibit, The Happy Show—adelightful culmination of adecade long happiness project that utilizes typography and the artist’s writing.

2. Southport Grocery and Café

Perfect for the individual craving a good read and good eats, this Roscoe Village staple is a restaurant, café, and grocery store that sells locally made treats good enough to take home. But with an outdoor patio, a great latte, and your copy of ACM, why would you want to leave?

3. Montrose Beach

Chicago has a large selection of beaches and lakefront destinations to enjoy when it’s sunny and scorching, but for a relaxed reading environment, check out Montrose Beach. Whether you want to camp out near the water or underneath the shade of a tree, this spot is quiet, and offers free wifi, so you can tweet about your copy of ACM!

4.& 5. Lurie Garden & Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Be a tourist for a day and visit this garden on the south end of Millennium Park, which was built to be a sanctuary for the “City of Big Shoulders.” Bring your copy of ACM, and enjoy the peacefulness of this spot among the flowers. If you visit on a weekday evening this summer, stay late for a free concert or film next to the garden at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, as shows are scheduled nearly every night.

6. J. Parker Rooftop

After a long day, head over to this rooftop bar in Lincoln Park and bring along your copy of ACM. With breathtaking views, delicious drinks, and a not-too-scene environment, the J. Parker offers the avid reader some respite from the usual bar scene. Or, grab a friend and discuss your favorite ACM pieces over drinks with names like The Lazenby and Wise Fool.

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TONIGHT: Write Club Chapter 26

Tonight! One night only (until next month, at least)! Ian Belknap's devil child, Write Club, is at The Hideout (1354 West Wabansia Avenue, Chicago)!

Facebook event. Write Club's website. A photo of Ian and I hugging sensually.

Write Club is Fight Club for the literary cowards among us. Watch six writers go head to head to see who truly is the best wordsmith (and, occasionally, the worst human being).

Tonight's contenders:

Ian Belknap VS Jeff Miller

Lindsay Muscato VS Noelle Krimm

Jim DeWan VS Chris Schoen

- Mason

The beginning of the end

It's December 1, which means that a) it's time to shave, and b) it's the beginning of the end of the year reading compilations. Today, check out The New York Times's 10 Best Books of the year and The Millions's A Year in Reading Series. What do you love? What do you hate? What would you include on your own list?

ACM & Curbside Splendor Publishing host a [pre]release celebration at the Uptown Book Expo!



ACM & Curbside Splendor host a reading of present and past contributors this Saturday, November 19th from 5-6pm, celebrating ACM's forthcoming Issue 50.2, the second in our all Chicago issue, Curbside Splendor's recent Issue 2, and Curbside Splendor's new book Chicago Stories: 40 Dramatic Fictions by Michael Czyzniejewski, coming out April 2012.

Readers include:

Chris Bower 

Philip Jenks

Natalie Edwards

James Tadd Adcox

Ben Tanzer

Ben Spies

Paul Luikart

Sondra Morin

Come to this, but more important, come to the Expo running all day Saturday Nov. 19 and Sunday Nov. 20. Support Chicago Independent Publishing! 

For more information about the Uptown Book Expo, click here!!!


Lynda Barry speaking at the School of the Art Institute

Lynda Barry, longtime writer of the comic strip Ernie Pook's Comeek, will be talking about her new book Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book (Drawn & Quarterly) tonight at the School of the Art Institute tonight at 6 P.M. Barry, who's been drawing her fantastic stories for over three decades, will be discussing the book and signing copies for the SAI's Visiting Artist Program. (h/t Chicago Reader)

Patrick Somerville Book Release Party 11/18

Universe in Miniature in Miniature

Tales of Strangeness (and Love)

Mark your calendars, on Thursday, November 18th, 8pm, ACM50 contributor Patrick Somerville will be holding a release party for his book The Universe in Miniature in Minature at the Hideout. The book also features illustrations (a preview of them here) by ACM fave Rob Funderburk.

Patrick will be joined by Benjamin Nugent (Author of American Nerd: The Story of My People) and Hannah Pittard (Author of The Fates Will Find Their Way). Guests are incouraged to come dressed as your favorite otherworldly being.  The first fifteen costumed indivuals will apparently be blessed with a copy of Patrick's book.

For more information, check out the featherproof event page. Hope to see you there!