photo by Michael HackerThe Sherwood Anderson Foundation Fiction Award winner for 2013 is Tupelo Hassman, of Oakland, California. Competition judges selected Hassman's girlchild for its fresh and compelling look at a girl who grows up among the daily cruelties and addictions that come with living in a trailer park outside Reno, Nevada. Hassman is a gifted writer of great promise, who has produced an eye-opening narrative that grabs the reader and refuses to let go. Hassman's story maintains a sustained underlying hope that the reader will find especially appealing.
Hassman's first novel, girlchild (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), was shortlisted for the Center for Fiction's Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, a finalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and a winner of the Young Adult Library Service Association's Alex Award. girlchild was a 2012 Booklist Editor's Choice for Best Adult Books for Young Adults and one of Library Journal's Best Books and NPR Reviewer Maureen Corrigan's Favorite Books of 2012. girlchild has been translated into Chinese, French, and Italian and is the Nevada Reads book for 2013.
Hassman's girlchild is the story of Rory Dawn Hendrix, a smart kid growing up in a poor town on the edge of Reno in Nevada's high desert. Her academic gifts set her apart when all she wants to do is connect and for all of her loneliness (an old copy of the Girl Scout Handbook is her best friend), she is besieged by voices telling her who and how she is. Her mother, grandmother, the school, the government, the Girl Scouts, they all have their opinions of Rory personally or of Rory as a representative of her culture. The novel is written using multiple forms, from excerpts of the Hendrix family's welfare file to SAT-style word problems.
"During the course of girlchild, Rory Dawn learns about the infamous Supreme Court decision in Buck v. Bell. The story of the Bucks, of three generations of women whose fate was decided by the government, rings too familiarly for Rory and it is this resonance that is at the heart of the novel for me," Hassman says. "Generational poverty is certainly a specter of mine and I wanted to serve even the tiniest bit of justice to the Bucks of the world. I wanted to afford one of these 'poor' girls the chance to determine her own fate. More than anything, I wanted to challenge the voices that think a person's life is predetermined based on family or place of origin."
Hassman's next two projects are The Hassman Family Experience: A Fully-Interactive Country & Western Album, a novel, and The Scar Farmer, a memoir.
Hassman's work has appeared in The Boston Globe, Harper's Bazaar, Imaginary Oklahoma, The Independent, The Paris Review Daily, The Portland Review Literary Journal, sPARKLE & bLINK, We Still Like, ZYZZYVA, and by 100WordStory.org, FiveChapters.com, and Invisible City Audio Tours, among others. She has been a finalist for the Writers @ Work Fellowship and is the recipient of the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame Silver Pen Award.
Hassman graduated from the University of Southern California and Columbia University School of the Arts. Currently she teaches at Santa Monica College in Los Angeles.