When we ask someone what they want to be when they grow up, it would be unusual for someone to answer, 'a trauma cleaner'. However, Sandra Pankhurst is an exceptional person and the cleaning of crime scenes and hoarder's caches, has come towards the end of a challenging life. From husband and father to sex worker and eventually a wife and businesswoman, Sandra has strived for respectability and now brings order to other people's compromised lives.
Compelling and disturbing, this is the candid personal history of a transgender woman as well as an eye-watering uncovering of the specialised world of trauma cleaning. [Larger font]
This title is also offered as part of the Narrative Muse Book Club.
View this title on the Narrative Muse website
Although many of us found it a "torrid read", we found it very interesting. There was plenty of discussion on abuse, survival, trauma, and gender identity at our gathering.
Generated the liveliest discussion we've had in a long time!
A really good read, one we all enjoyed. Quite a traumatic yet 'can't look away' interesting life that we were able to get an insight of.
A fascinating story, very authentically written. This is a very personal story which endeared the reader to Sandra and her amazing resilience in spite of her many hurdles. The author highlighted the predicament minorities face and the importance of acceptance and empathy, also drawing attention to the fact that transgender is not a choice. The rape scene was particularly brutal and a struggle to read. We felt this book would be a challenge for conservative readers.
Challenging content but an interesting read. The author put too much of herself in the text but otherwise a well received format and style. Recommended but with warning on the distressing nature of some content (esp. the rape scene).
Now here's a book that will challenge your attitudes somewhat depending on your background. Gritty, heartfelt and uplifting. A biography of a very brave person. Must read!
Insightful and enjoyable.
We had a long and interesting discussion about what a resilient person Sandra was - how and why anyone could survive her beginnings, and how they affected her ability to form attachments. The use of clients' stories was an interesting way to introduce Sandra's life experiences - quite grim at times.
Probably not a book to enjoy, however the insights into ongoing trauma; the whole issue surrounding transsexuality; and hoarding made for interesting reading.
Very interesting book and well received by the group, good to have a little non-fiction for a change. Sandra was a complex character that the group had mixed feelings about. We found it unusual how the author's voice and opinion came into the telling of Sandra's story, but also found it gave more depth and probably a truer version of her tale. Great discussions around her character and why we interpreted what she did through the book.
This book generated a great discussion. Although most members did not especially enjoy the author's contribution, we were all interested in the two issues of transgender and hoarding, and pleased to have insight into those.
A glimpse into a world foreign to all of us. We learnt a lot, and the book engendered a great deal of discussion and elicited anecdotes. It was hard to put down and for some there was a "horrified fascination". It was hard to see how someone who had suffered so much hardship and deprivation could have so much empathy and kindness.
Very mixed reactions - some loved it, others hated it and did not complete it. Generated a great deal of discussion about gender identification, and how and why people become such extreme hoarders.
We all loved this book, so compassionately written about 'fringe dwellers' of society. Empowering through its inclusivity.
'The Trauma Cleaner' was an absorbing and inspirational story of Sandra Pankhurst's remarkable life. We admired her determination to be "the best" at whatever she was doing. It was an interesting glimpse into the transsexual world, followed by her work as a trauma cleaner where her understanding and compassion for the folk who required her services was amazing. Those of us who heard Kim Hill's interview with Sandra on National Radio felt she sounded just as they imagined her to be. An unusual memoir...
Interesting in a strange sort of way. Some people really enjoyed it and others didnt.
An amazing story of a transvestite's difficult life, and another story of the difficult work of a trauma cleaner. Top marks from 6 of us. One of us found it a bit of a traumatic read. Another member said it was one of the best books we have ever had.
Loved by some, but not for everyone it seems. Fascinating and educational, but a little hagiographic.