Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

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image_51 Genre: Realistic Fiction

Winner 2013 Alex Award, the ALA’s award for “books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults.”

I started by review here by saying Girlchild was “well written but kind of just not my cup of tea.”  I think part of the problem was that I couldn’t really find anything in it to which I could relate. In addition, the writing had a beautiful quality to it but took a bit of patience. I described it to a friend recently as “one of those books that seems like it’s written entirely in metaphors.” There was one chapter that confused me totally and I’m still not sure what happened in it. I think there’s a good deal of merit in it, in the writing as well as the subject, I just didn’t find it compelling.

Girlchild is the coming of age story of a girl growing up in a trailer park in Reno, Nevada with an alcoholic mother.  Sexual abuse is a large theme of the story, but the book is just as much an exploration of mother-daughter relationships.

I would not teach this book, but it might be suitable for outside/summer reading for juniors or seniors if the sexual subject matter is not objectionable. There are no graphic descriptions but what is suggested is not for the faint of heart.

Teaching resources:

Author’s website:

Skylight Books Author Reading Series: Tupelo Hassman

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network

Oprah’s information and resources on sexual abuse

The National Council on Problem Gambling

The Girl Scouts

How Stuff Works: Girl Scouts

Sample essay prompts based on past AP Exam essay prompts:

1. “And, after all, our surroundings influence our lives and characters as much as fate, destiny or any supernatural agency.” Pauline Hopkins, Contending Forces

Write a well-organized essay in which you analyze how cultural, physical or geographical surroundings affect Rory by shaping psychological or moral traits and illuminate the meaning of the work as a whole.  Do not merely summarize the plot.

2. A symbol is an object, action, or event that represents something or that creates a range of associations beyond itself. In literary works a symbol can express an idea, clarify meaning, or enlarge literal meaning. Choose a symbol from Girlchild and  write an essay analyzing how that symbol functions in the work and what it reveals about the characters or themes of the work as a whole. Do not merely summarize the plot.

3. In some works of literature, childhood and adolescence are portrayed as times graced by innocence and a sense of wonder; in other works, they are depicted as times of tribulation and terror. Explain how Girlchild‘s  representation of childhood or adolescence shapes the meaning of the work as a whole.


2 thoughts on “Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

  1. Pingback: Friday February 22, 2013 | Peggy Power!

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