Friday, December 9, 2011

Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood by Hollis Gillespie

I guess I've looked a bit mopey lately because people have been shoving self-help and inspirational books at me right and left.  And while I appreciate knowing that I am an introvert who needs to set up better defined boundaries and must look to my inner faith to pull me through difficult times, I definitely needed to cleanse my reading palate.

(Maybe I would have done better reading something like this.)
Photo Credit

So, I thought the perfect antidote to self-help gurus and Mitch Albom (a very sweet person at work told me I absolutely had to read Have a Little Faith) would be Hollis Gillespie who is a commentator on NPR's All Things Considered.  Plus one of my favorite bloggers, Citizen Reader, recommends her (see her review here).

It was a fun memoir about life with three siblings, an alcoholic father and a mother who was a rocket scientist aspiring to be a beautician (no really--she was!).  She reminds me a lot of David Sedaris--hilarious and fearless, definitely not above toilet humor to drive home a point.  Please don't read this if you are offended by dirty language.  I'm warning you!

But, the book was way sadder than I was expecting.  Even though she cracks jokes right and left, there is such a feeling of regret and loss throughout the book.  The relationship she could have had with her dad.  Her parents' failed marriage.  Her own search for meaning and identity.  She attempts to make light of these things, but really it was just so so sad.  I don't think I was in the right frame of mind to appreciate the whole of this book's potential.

There were some standout moments, though.  Here's one of my favorite passages (sorry, it's not one of the hilarious, foul-mouthed ones. . .):

I once had a kindly professor who, in spite of my inner oath to prioritize good grades above ever actually learning something in college, made me understand the poems of T. S. Eliot. "April is the cruelest month," he quoted from Eliot, and to demonstrate the meaning behind the verse, he led me to the courtyard outside the classroom. There he pointed me to a tree, its branches as brown as old photographs.
"Do you see that?" he asked, indicating the minuscule blossoms forming from the deadness of the branches.  "That is why April is so cruel."
 I sensed then that later I'd become familiar with how painful it is to bleed life back into an atrophied part of yourself, to come alive after the comfort of deadness. It's a rite of passage you can't avoid if you expect to reach levels of enrichment in your life.
Funny how you find more useful thoughts in the memoir and fiction areas of the library than in the self-help section.

Overall, not sure if I'd recommend this book.  It seemed a little disjointed and repetitive by the end.  But, I hear her other book, Trailer Trashed is pretty good. Although, it might continue on with her house hunting adventure (which we get a taste of in this book) and I'm not sure of what I think about the whole gentrification business.

<I checked this book out from my library.>


  1. Ponzi Schemes for Dummies! Haha

  2. When I read the inside flap I thought it seemed oddly, openly pro-gentrification, or I don't know... breezy about it?

  3. Yeah--she talks about gentrification like its the cool hipster thing to do (all her groovy friends are doing quite well for themselves flipping houses in iffier neighborhoods). That kind of bugged me.