Portrait of the Artist Living in a Parking Lot

You might be weary of the typical young memoirist who suffers some unimaginable hardship, like a high-level internship, only to lose it all, gain a publisher and a development deal, and sail into microfame. Nonetheless, we’re quivering: The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness is a very good book. To write it, Brianna Karp first went through the homelessness mentioned in the title. We’ll take homelessness! In her case, last-resort lodging took the form of a travel trailer in a Walmart parking lot, where the 24-year-old lived after losing her executive assistant job and running out of money. After her blog took off — what, you wouldn’t blog about that? — Karp’s fortunes improved, and she appeared on CNN. She became a homeless activist. She wrote her book. And in April, on the heels of Girl’s Guide getting a starred review from Kirkus, Margaret Atwood penned a tweet: “Reading Brianna Karp, The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness, chewed ends of fingers, parents from hell!” Which resulted in a shocked, humbled, and hopeful blog post from Karp, which included the lines, “It makes me feel, just for a few fleeting minutes, that perhaps I’m not a ‘Snooki.’ Maybe I really could be — am? — a writer.” New media rule: When Atwood tweets your book, you’re a writer.

Brianna Karp appears in conversation with Tony DuShane.
Wed., June 8, 6 p.m., 2011

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